Critically review the policies pursued by governments in the last 14 years in order to address the social causes of crime amongst young people. Have these policies made a difference to either the crime figures or recidivism amongst juveniles
Youth crime has been on the top of every government agenda in the UK. In its 'Crime Reduction Strategy' the government estimates that about seven million offences are committed by young people every year. According to a survey conducted about twenty years ago, most young people surveyed in the Youth Justice Board's Annual Report on Youth crime found out that three out of every ten school children aged between 11 -16, interviewed said with certainty that they have not committed any crime in the past year. However, only one in six of those school children that admitted that they have committed an offence in the past year said that their offence has been detected and thus recorded by the police (MORI survey, 1998 and Youth Justice Board Annual Report, 1999).
This is a criminology essay and the essay will critically review the policies put in place by the government of the United Kingdom in the last 14 years in order to address the social causes of crime amongst the youths in our society and see if these polices have reduced offending by youths or recidivism amongst juveniles.
Youth crime is a serious problem in the United Kingdom. The number of young people in England and Wales coming in to contact with the criminal justice system in England and Wales and getting their first reprimand, warning or conviction stood at 74,588 as at September 2009 (Ministry of Justice, Statistical Release, 2010:2). The number of young people in England and Wales getting their first reprimand, warning or conviction stood at 57, 291 as at September 2010 (Ministry of Justice, Statistical Release, 2010:2). This represents a decrease of about 23 per cent from the 2009 figures released by the ministry of Justice. The majority of the rise and fall of these figures over this period is due to the use of out of court disposals by the police such as reprimands and warning (Ministry of Justice, Statistical Release, 2010:2). The rate at which young people come in to contact with the criminal justice system is falling, however violent crimes amongst young people is on the increase. The number of violent, property and sexual crimes committed by young people is on the increase (Leapman, 2008:1).
Youth crime is always in the press and the governments in the last 14 years have been developing policies to address the social causes of crime amongst young people Crime amongst young people. However, it appears that these policies have not really addresses the social causes of youth crime, because youth crime is on the increase particularly violent, property, sexual and drug crimes.
The rate of offending amongst youths appear to be falling in the last couple of years, however a number of young people come in to contact with the criminal justice system every year. This has caused the government to invest a lot of resources to deal with the issue of crime amongst young people.
Social factors have been given as a major reason why a lot of young people take to crime. In order to tackle these social factors, successive governments have introduced a number of policies in the last fourteen years to deal with the social factors that make young people commit crime. It should be pointed out that many young people still take to crime despite the various and diverse policies that the government have put in place to stop them from doing from engaging in crime (Graham and Bowling, 1995:10).
There are so many reasons why young people engage in crime. Social reasons are just one of such reasons. The strategy of the government is to tackle social causes of crime so that young people will shun crime and criminal behaviour. However, the policies introduced and implemented by government have not had much impact on crime figures amongst young people.
Statistics on Youth Crime in the United Kingdom
Generally members of the society view youth crime with disdain. The press on its own part always give priority to any incident of youth crime in its features section. These factors have combined to make youth crime a contemporary issue. A cross section of the society has criticised the government for being lenient to young offenders (Farrington, 202:132). However, some other members of the society support the government's policies on youth crime. There are so many philosophies on how to deal with youth crime and many theories as to why youths engage in crime.
Youth crime in the United Kingdom is rampant and the facts and statistics about youth crime in the United Kingdom call for concern. The United Kingdom has one of the highest rates of youth crime in the European Union. One of the reasons for that is that the United Kingdom has one of the lowest age of criminal responsibility in the world. The age of criminal responsibility in the United Kingdom is ten years. The rate at which young people between the ages of 14-17 are incarcerated in the United Kingdom have doubled in the last fourteen years (Home Office, Statistical Bulletin, Crime in England, 2009-2010).
The number of young people below the age of eighteen that are locked up in the United Kingdom in 2010 was almost three thousand. During this period well over two hundred and fifty thousand recorded offences were committed by young people during this period (Home Office, Statistical Bulletin, Crime in England, 2009-2010). Youth crime costs a lot to the tax payers. The government spends an average of four billion Pounds every year to tackle youth crime in the United Kingdom (Home Office, Statistical Bulletin, Crime in England, 2009-2010).
Every year almost hundred thousand young people get in contact with the criminal justice system for different offences and almost fifty per cent are young people (Home Office, Statistical Bulletin, Crime in England, 2009-2010). Furthermore, the number of juveniles in prison custody has trebled in the last fourteen years. These statistics goes to show that youth crime is a real problem in the United Kingdom. Every government in the United Kingdom recognises this fact and in the last fourteen years the UK government has introduced policies aimed at address the social causes of crime amongst young people; however the policies introduced by the government do not seem to tackle the problem. Young people are still committing more crime and a large number of young people are entering the criminal justice system for the first time (See the Home Office, Statistical Bulletin, Crime in England, 2009-2010).
The social causes of crime
Our politicians are always trying to address the social causes of crime amongst young people in society. The government strategy is to identify the social causes of crime in society and then implement policies that will effectively combat the problem. Youth crime receives much attention from all sections of the society. This is due to the fact that offending by young people is used to gauge the level of morality and law and order in any given society (Brown, 1998:56).
Youth offenders are young people that repeatedly break the law (Maguire, 2007:112). There are many social causes of crime, particularly among young people. These include peer pressure and labelling. Studies have shown that people that are labelled as criminals are more likely to commit crime than those that re not (Eadie and Morley, 2003:552).
Young males tend to commit more crime than young females. The young male is more likely to be affected by social causes including peer pressure and labelling than young females. Young males are usually more adventurous and daring than young females. Young males are more usually influenced to join criminal gangs than females (Brown, 1998: 109).
Another social cause of crime is poverty and low educational achievement. People from poor background or working class background are more likely to commit crime than people from middle class background. Furthermore young people from poor background may drop out of school without proper qualifications. This usually affects their prospects of finding a job in future. Without educational qualifications and money, a young person is likely to turn to crime.
Young people from broken homes are likely to also turn to crime. This is due to the fact that children growing up in single parent homes are more likely to encounter economic difficulties than children growing up with both parents. Economic hardship may force these young men to leave home early to fend for themselves and these young people from broken homes most times leave school without proper qualifications that will see them through life (Farrington, 2002:162). Thus young people with low educational qualifications or no qualification are more likely to engage in criminal and anti-social behaviour.
Another social cause of crime among young people is the family. The family helps in the social, physical and mental development of children and thus is very important in the lives of young people. Parents can have a positive impact on their children. Abused children are more likely to turn to crime than children from a loving home. Young people from a single parent household are also more likely to break the law than children brought up by both parents (Graham and Bowling, 1995:33-35).the two biological parents.
The policies pursued by governments in the last 14 years in order to address the social causes of crime amongst young people
The government has pursued policy on youth crime in the past fourteen years is to reduce youth crime in England and Wales.
One of the aims of any government is to reduce the fear of crime, particularly youth crime and ensure that young people are properly channelled and motivated in to doing legal and use activities. The government formulates a number of policies for addressing the social causes of crime amongst young people.
The policy of the government appears to be zero tolerance to crime. The government talks tough but in reality their policies appear to suit the criminals instead of the victims. Young offenders seem to get away with a lot. The policies pursued by the government to tackle the social causes of crime and thus reduce the crime rate amongst young people do not seem to be working.
Crime has reduced among young people, but violent crime and property crime is on the increase (Ministry of Justice, Statistical Release, 2010:2). The government plans to build more prisons and incarcerate more young offenders.
In a government white paper delivered in July 2003, titled justice for all, the government insisted that it will give more protection to the public and punish offenders more severely. However, this has not happened, records show that the government policy does not appear to be working. The criminal justice system is not in favour of locking up young offenders. The government prefers the use of other methods such as community sentence and anti -social behaviour orders to deal with youth crime than custodial punishment. Young offenders are usually locked up for a short time. This appears to suit the persistent young offender. The young offender knows that he or she will be locked up for a little while and thus is not deterred from committing crime. Furthermore, the government does not appear to have any policy in place that is that is preventive. Most of the policies are how to deal with the young offender and not how not to make the young offender commit crime in the first place (Ferguson, 1994:1).
Government policy does not encourage the use of prisons to deal with youth crime. The government supports the use of community sentences more than prison sentences; however the government is aware of the fact that community sentences do not give adequate protection to the public and in fact does not deter young offenders. However the government still encourages the use of community sentences more than custodial sentences for young people. The government have introduced tougher community sentences for young people, however despite these measures young people on community sentences or remand go on to commit crime, including violent, sexual and property crimes on community sentences or on remand still go on to commit crimes, including murder and other types of violent crimes (Ferguson, 1994:1).
The government policy on youth offending is to punish as well as rehabilitate the offender; however, this does not seem to be working. More young offenders are re-offending and a good number of young people come in contact with the criminal justice system every year (Ministry of Justice, Statistical Release, and 2010:2). Thus the government policy on re-offending has not been successful. It has not succeeded to deal effectively with the issue of youth crime. The government have tried to introduce a third option, which will be used in addition to prison sentences and community service. This third is known as the Supervision and Surveillance Programme (ISSP) .This policy is all about punishment and rehabilitation of young people. The success or failure of this programme cannot be judged because there is not enough evidence or statistics with which to judge the programme. In the meantime the government is still trying to come up with new policies that will effectively deal with the problem of youth crime in the United Kingdom.
It is clear that the policies introduced by the government in the past 14 years to deal with youth crime in the United Kingdom have not worked. Crime rate amongst young people in the United Kingdom is going down, but the rate of violent crime among young people in going up, particularly violent offences. Gun and knife crime is also going up. The government should put in place policies that will address the real causes of crime among young people. Most of the policies introduced by the government deal with crime after they have been committed by young people and not before the crimes are committed. The government should introduce policies that will help young people, especially young people living in the inner cities and from poor or working class background that will keep them busy and engaged. These people should also be encouraged to stay in school until they acquire a qualification.
The policies introduced by the government over 14 years ago have not really tackled the social causes of crime nor has it made a difference to either the crime figures or recidivism amongst juveniles. Yes, the number of young people coming in to contact with the criminal justice system for the first time has fallen, however more young people are committing crimes today that were not been committed before by people their age.
Finally the government have put in place so many policies aimed at addressing the issue of youth crime, however the government policy have not achieved the desired effect. The government needs to go back to the drawing board and come up with policies that will positively influence young people and keep them away from crime.