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Juvenile crimes seem to dominate many topics of discussions and are such a gigantic problem, because of the over-crowded court rooms and jail cells. However, legislation is being manufactured for younger offenders, while public sentiments continue to escalate regarding what to do with these juveniles, who terrorize local communities with their poor choices that affect us all. One may say that we have never been a victim of a juvenile crime, but many have felt the residual trickle down effects of juvenile crime. How does the society at large combat this issue before it touches or affects us directly? This research paper will show that early intervention through parenting programs as well as an exit strategy for those who fall through the cracks will assist to lower juvenile crimes in spite of the attempts to utilize boot camps, scare tactics and adult sentencing as a means for change.
The news is bombarded with juvenile incidents that peaks our discomfort levels and ushers in uneasy feelings because of the violent way juveniles are behaving. Here are a few stories of what juveniles are doing in their respective communities. Four teenagers are caught on a camera robbing a store owner in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. The store owner hands are raised above his head when a shot is fired by one of the teens and the store owner falls to his death. In Florida and Kentucky five other teens that perpetrated as vampires are charged with assaulting another teen’s parent to death. In Los Angeles a six year old boy is fatally wounded by the senseless acts of gang activity and an innocent person was caught in the crossfire also. These are the types of juvenile crimes being committed by individuals between six to eighteen years old.
The isolated stories mentioned above are just a few of the headliners of major media outlets informing the general public of the plight of America’s juvenile problem. These senseless brutal events are so commonly placed that juvenile crimes seem to have a numbing effect on our society. A team of researchers stated that “Compared to adolescents in other countries, America’s teens exhibit alarmingly high rates of violence,” and the sad part about the violent crimes being committed by these individuals is that it is done so easily, uncaring and indifferent to those they violate
Most juvenile crime problem stems from social problems, and they are initiated from their upbringing, poverty and poor education. Because, of juvenile crime inner-city youths are unbalanced in their involvement in crime. Since there have been so many stories about juvenile crime, cities, states and even the federal government are working on ways as to how they can improve the problem with crime. Our Congress would like to change twenty-two laws that provide anti-delinquency funding to states. There are states who would like to see young teens to be charged as an adult for crimes they commit. The state of Massachusetts has voted for youths as young as fourteen be tried as adults; while the state of Tennessee minimum age was eliminated, but Wisconsin’s solution to the problem was to lower their age to ten.
For many years, there was a public outcry for tougher stances on juvenile crimes; out of this response the juvenile boot camp concept was born and widely supported but the program had little success. Boot camps for juveniles originated in the late 1980’s to help keep youths out of adult prisons or to keep their jail sentences short. At risk youths were placed into intense, structured, severe environments that resembled military boot camps. The juvenile boot camps had a legitimate and sincere mission which was to teach and provide discipline, but ultimately it failed to help prevent kids from committing future crimes. Authorities had hoped that the three months or so, served in boot camp, would help turn juveniles behavior around, but preliminary studies conducted as early as 1990’s have indicated that boot camps do not work to improve a juveniles’ behavior. In fact, many of the attendees, after released, committed even more serious crimes than before because of their contact with more experienced offenders (NIH, n.d.).
Studies have been shown that boot camps should be ban by the government because of the misconduct of employees at the camps. One incident involved a fourteen-year-old girl who had been put into the camp because she had stole $25 from a friend. The girl, who was overweight, died of heart failure because she was left lying in the sun unattended for hours after running three miles (NIH, n.d.). Incident such as this, is why boot camps have been given a bad reputation and should be closed immediately..
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) and experts agree that boot camps do not work to combat juvenile crime; in fact, many of them agree that it can make the problems worse. Many of the facilities has no therapy or no psychological interventions programs for the offenders to help them deal with underlying emotional and behavioral problems they may have been developing for many years (NIH, n.d.). Instead of boot camps which isn’t helping out youths we need to start concentrating on ways to prevent juvenile crimes indisputably. One of the ways this can be accomplished is by communities providing programs to help children and their families at an early age. Many state programs are attempting to implement early intervention programs and requesting federal funding for community initiatives that will allow special groups to fight and battle the problem of juvenile crimes..
Another way this can be accomplished is through educational programs geared to observe and seek-out the juvenile indicators early in the developmental stage. These educational programs help the families that they served by providing valid and resourceful information that will enhance or benefit their current status. The programs show parents how to raise healthy children, while others instruct kids about the dangers of drugs, gangs, sex and weapons. While some try to reinforce and emphasize the God given worth or value juveniles have within themselves. This is a great tool in combating many of the issues with juvenile crimes, because the majority of juveniles committing a lot of these senseless crimes are doing them to draw attention due to self-esteem issues. These educational programs were designed to provide encouraging hope and to inform juveniles that there is another way out of their dilemma.
Also by implementing early educational intervention in prenatal and infancy homes where visitation by nurses is just one more tool in helping to reduce juvenile crimes. These nurses involved in this program pay visits to low income, single mothers between their third trimester and second year of the child’s life. The nurses emphasize on the medical condition of the mother and child, the support relationships in the mother’s life, and the enrollment of the mother or caretaker and child in Health and Human Services programs. In a fifteen-year follow-up study found that mothers and children involved in the program had a seventy-nine percent lower child abuse rate, a fifty-six percent lower child runaway rate, and a fifty-six percent lower child arrest rate. This study has also showed an improvement in overall behavior problems of juveniles. (LawyerShop, n.d.)..
Another law which has been implemented by many states to control juvenile crimes is the transfer law. This law refers to juveniles being transferred or waived to adult court to be sentence as adults and to serve time with adults. There has been research to prove that this law does not work to detour juvenile crimes. In the 1980’s, there were two studies conducted that proved that the transfer laws does not lower the juvenile crime rate. A study conducted by Jensen and Metsger’s (1994) time-series analysis, has reported that after implementing the transfer law in 1981, Idaho’s arrest rate for violent crimes committed by fourteen to eighteen-year-olds increased by 13-percent. Another study conducted by Singer and McDowall in 1988 found that the arrest rates of juveniles between 1974 and 1984 in New York and Philadelphia did not change because of the 1978 New York State law that automatically “sent violent juvenile offenders to criminal court (by lowing the ages for criminal court jurisdiction to thirteen-years-old for murder and fourteen-years-old for assault, arson, burglary, kidnapping, and rape)” (Redding, 2008, p. 1). The news of the new law was publicized considerably in the media. During that time, there was evidence that showed many juvenile offenders in New York had knowledge of the new law (Redding, 2008). A program which has been proven to work is an early educational intervention program for juveniles where the parent and child are both involved in the training program. This program encompasses an instructional platform for parents that deal with major behavioral problems in their children. The twelve week interactive program allows therapist to guide and educate parents on the best way to respond to their child’s behavior whether positive or negative. The results produced by the program have shown a reduction of hyperactivity, attention deficit, aggression and other related behavior in children (Lawyershop, n.d.)..
The educational early intervention program also includes a bullying prevention program that is primary geared toward focusing on elementary as well as junior high school youths. An anonymous student questionnaire informs or alerts teachers and administrators regarding those who maybe engaged in bullying. The questionnaire advised the authorities on the kids, who were most likely to be bullied and the places where bullying occurred. The administrators setup a plan to combat the problem and bullies as well as victims are engaged in individual counseling sessions to follow-up the actual event. As a result of this practice, the program had great success in creating a safer, less aggressive playing field for student at minimal cost to schools.
Despite the programs that have been initiated for the benefit of our youth, there are still some juveniles that fall through the cracks, but we as communities must work harder with implementing these programs in the communities to help our youths. Juveniles that enter the Juvenile Justice System have the opportunity to receive intervention assistance within the state, this intervention maybe seen in the form of drug rehabilitation assistance, counseling, and other educational opportunities. The telling outcomes that correlates to the success of the program is seen by how well it prepares these young people to re-enter back into society without committing other crimes. “Optimally, all juvenile detention facilities would catch youth up on their education, provide them with job training, give the experience of living in a safe, stable environment, and provide them with assistance to break harmful habits”(Lawyershop, n.d.)..
For those juveniles that find themselves upon completion of their sentencing, the transition can be brutal without further assistance and help. There are programs that support juveniles that are on the verge of entrance back into the communities they abused. Juveniles must separate themselves from the criminal element that placed them into that situation in the first place. To assist in promoting acceptable behavior and conduct, the courts have attempted to implement helpful social services that aid in giving additional support to ex-offenders, such as, job placement, school opportunities, extended counseling sessions and drug rehab.
The last educational intervention program we would like to discuss is Functional Family Therapy program (FFT). This program helps juveniles on probation and their families. The family therapist assists the family and supports the juvenile with positive motivational changes in the home. The program is based on three stages: the first stage attempts to break down any resistance to therapy and encourages the family to promote positive affirmations, communication and interaction; the second step, family members are instructed on how to deal with new problems on a day-to-day situation; the third and final step in the process encourage youths to build new relationship skills in other social situations (for instance school, or the workplace). “FFT reduces recidivism rates and juvenile delinquency at a low cost. Twelve FFT sessions cost approximately one-sixth the cost of detaining a youth for one month.”(Lawyershop, n.d.). A highlighted benefit from the program is that the siblings of the juvenile crimes are less likely to be engaged in criminal activities because of the assistance the family receives..
Implementing a recreational program in the community can help fill the time of unsupervised youths during after school hours, when parents are, maybe, at work. The Department of Education states that juveniles are most likely to be involved in criminal behavior between the evening hours of 2pm and 8pm, with crime rates escalating at 3pm. These recreational programs allow youths to bond with other members of the community, whether young or old, in wholesome activities. Many of these established relationships may carry into the future as a positive resource. Many psychologists also agree that to change the behavior of a juvenile permanently, a change must be made in a youth’s internal thinking. There is a three-step process called self-revelation which can help youths make the change; this process is used to help juveniles make better decisions in life by making them think before they act, and to make sensible decisions in life. In the first step, the youths must realize their current behavior is self-destructive to themselves and others; step two, the youths need to seek ways on how to be positive and the final step, step three, they change their behavior. “This three-step process can only transpire when a teen can sincerely and openly talk about their situation within a supportive and mutually respectful adult relationship” (Redding, 2008, p. 2).That’s why everyone is of necessity in dealing with this complex issue. Resources are needed from every professional and caring person, who knows that this problem must be stopped in order to have a more peaceful community.
In conclusion this paper gives some insight on how early intervention programs can help youths stay away from criminal activities. Juvenile crime is a constant issue that needs to be addressed before it is too late for our young people. Youths are trying to grow up and enter adulthood too fast and too young. Throughout this paper we have expressed the need for educational programs, mentoring from parents and guidance from the community to help our youths stay or get back on the right path..
Encouraging positive behavior support can also work to help youths instead of punishing bad behavior; this system would reward good behavior. For any program to be successful, the teen’s family must be involved in the process. A study conducted by NIH found that programs which implemented family counseling had the best results. Resolving conflicts, disappointments, and anger with each other will help the teenager and his or her family move on to resolve and appreciate what was good and bad with each other. Providing a good program which includes excellent academics where the teen can be successful, positive discipline methods surrounded by a structure of loving adults, and family counseling to sustain the positive changes that has occurred during the program can help the teen move on to become a productive citizen in society
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