Juvenile Offenders

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Juvenile Offenders

When a juvenile commits a crime many factors weigh into whether or not they should be charged as an adult. Although many times the juvenile commits the crime at the direction of an adult who would be punished more severely, the juvenile still needs to know that what they did was wrong and could ruin the rest of their life. Many times kids think that if they are under 18 and commit a crime they will be charged as a juvenile and not do serious time. This could not be further from the truth. Often when a juvenile commits a crime depending on the severity they are charged as an adult and could presumably ruin the rest of their life. Juvenile offenders need to be charged as adults for serious crimes to teach them life lessons such as, how to take responsibility for their actions. They need to understand what they did was wrong and that their actions have consequences. And that this is not a game this is real life not a game.

The rise in crime has drastically increased. Crimes not just committed by individual juveniles but also groups of juveniles called gangs. Juveniles join gangs to fit in or to be a part of the “in crowd”. Most juvenile gangs fight and bully others, which sometime result in the death of or a gang member or the victim. Gang members bully and threaten people so that they will comply with their demands so that they can monopolize certain areas of a neighborhood. Some gangs commit crimes in order to get money to survive. However, gangs are best known for murder and robbery. When juveniles get convicted for murder they are often tried as adults. The courts feel in most circumstances that when a juvenile offender commits a serious crime, such as murder, rape and armed robbery that they should be certified and prosecuted as an adult.

According to “Debate. Org” the most popular saying by adults is “regardless of age, they know the difference between good and bad and right and wrong”. That may be the case but a lot of deviant juvenile behavior is a product of what is going on at home and also the maturity level of the individual. Many of these kids are product of drug addicted parents who have abandoned them and in some cases thrown into a system that knows nothing about them and just places them into foster care. These are the kids that join in and commit the crimes just for the attention. Most feel that once they join to gangs and commit crimes they try to bring others down with them no matter what it takes. Once they bring kids down it all comes down to peer pressure which plays a big part in crime. They feel that if they don’t join then they will basically get abused because they won’t do what the other gang members want them to do.

Studies say “Jensen and Metsger’s (1994) times-series analysis for the years 1976 to 1986 found a 13 percent increase in arrest rates for violent crimes committed by 14 to 18 year olds in Idaho after the state implemented its transfer law in 1981”. “In comparison between 1982 and 1986 the arrest rates for similarly aged juveniles decreased in the neighboring states of Montana and Wyoming (which retained transfer procedures similar to those Idaho had before 1981)”. In a similar time-series analysis comparing juvenile arrest rates between 1974 and 1984 in New York and Philadelphia, Singer and McDowall (1988) found that a 1978 New York State Law that automatically sent violent juvenile offenders to criminal court (by lowering the ages for criminal court jurisdiction to 13 for murder and 14 for assault, arson, burglary, kidnapping, and rape) had no deterrent effect on violent juvenile crime. Crimes that happen all the time are robbery, arson, assault, drug dealing, and murder. These crimes happen every day and most of the time nothing is done about it. The most they do is say the juvenile has to go to classes or have to go to the dention center for a few months which is nothing but a mini jail for juveniles where they can meet new people and catch up with old friends. Once that doesn’t work they put them on house arrest which is nothing because they give them day passes and stuff. Once they have the house arrest bracelet around their ankle they think oh this is nothing the pigs are just trying to mess with me because they want to see black men like me successful all they want to do is see us fail and not make it out of this place. That is mentality that a lot of juveniles have after they sit and watch other adults act out of character and act like they are children which is not setting a good example for juveniles.

Sentencing for juveniles is very complicated and is different for every perpetrator. Today’s trends for juvenile offenders, under the age of eighteen, indicate that they are sentenced as adults for serious crimes. Statistically juveniles offenders had the highest crime rate, from 1980-2010. (Online, 2012) There are a lot of factors that impact the way the court system sentences juveniles. Criminal records are examined to document prior arrest records and the severity of the crime committed. These are the two biggest factors that are considered when sentencing a juvenile. When juveniles commit serious crimes like murder or rape the court system almost always considers certifying them as adults. Being charged as an adult is very serious because you can go to prison with adults and that can either make or break you. Some adults cannot handle the stress of going prison, so you know it is going to be even harder for juveniles.

When juveniles get transferred to adult prisons they presume, “oh it’s going to be easy. ” What they don’t know is they are going to have to deal with some very serious adult matters, including rape and other deviate crimes. “In the 1980’s, many states passed legal reforms designed to get tough on juvenile crime”. (Redding, 2010) “In the wake of these legislative changes, the number of youth convicted of felonies in criminal courts and incarcerated in adult correctional facilities have increased. (Redding 2003) It reached its peak in the mid-1990 and then began to decline somewhat due, in part, to the decrease in juvenile crime. (Snyder and Sickmund, 2006)

Rehabilitation of juveniles is a top priority and that is why the court system is starting to reexamine their policy of housing juveniles with hardened prisoners. “Juveniles get rehabilitation while they are in jail with when the inmates give pep talks, when they tell them to change their lives around while they still have time, but is the message getting through? Seventy-five percent of the transferred interviewed by Redding and Fuller (2004) felt that their experiences in the adult criminal justice system had taught them the serious consequences of committing crimes. If you want to be an adult you have to take the reasonability that goes with it just because you’re a juvenile that doesn’t mean that they’re going to feel bad for you and say “don’t do it again ok? Just because you’re a kid doesn’t mean you can go around doing stupid stuff thinking you’re going to get away with it”. (Blewett, 2013) What works for one child may not work for another. (Kumli, 1995-2013) One thing is that “if you reach a kid early, chances are they won’t re-offend. But with each additional entry into the system our success, our potential for rehabilitation gets slimmer and slimmer…” (Kumli, 1995-2013) One rehabilitation they have for children is called “Beyond Scared Straight” (Shapiro, Beyond Scared Straight, 2011) which also has a movie that came out in the late 1980’s (Shapiro, 1987).

The million dollar question is “Why do juveniles tried as adults have higher recidivism rates?” Well a felony conviction also results in the loss of a number of civil rights and privileges (see Redding, 2003), further reducing the opportunities for employment and community reintegration. Findings from several studies show that criminal court processing alone, even without the imposition of any criminal sentence, increases at criminal court processing many cause them to react defiantly by reoffending, and it may further harden an emergent criminal self-concept. (See Sherman, 1993; Thomas and Bishop, 1984; Winner, et al., 1997).

Once juveniles realize that this is the “last straw” this is it, there will be no more easy way out most will straighten up. The way parents, mentors, teachers etc. try to help juveniles change is to put them in programs and or assign them to mentors that show them what will happen to them later on down the road if they can avoid trouble . There is a television program that comes on every Thursday evening on A&E called “Beyond Scared Straight”. Every week this show visits a different institution and it shows you how the inmates live, they tell what they did to get there and how they wished they had listened to everyone to avoid being where they are today. This is a realistic way of telling juveniles before it is too late. The guards and prisoners talk very mean to the kids and they show them how they would live if they were there, also what could happen to them if they were locked up there at the age they are now. One of the last parts of the program some of the inmates pair off with the kids and talk to them about what they are doing wrong and how they could change in order to end up there. The very last part of the show the kids get to talk to their parents and apologize to them for the way they have behaved. They also do something called a follow up which sometimes there is a officer at the prison that became very close to the juvenile and the officer will go and meet up with the juvenile and their family and will check on them to see if they have improved or if they have went back to their old ways. And also after that there is a brief summary on how each child that was in the program is doing after about a month or so. It is so interesting to see the kids consider tough and out of control break down and cry apologizing to their parents promising to do better. The part of the show that has the most impact is a once a month checkup to see if the juveniles have changed their attitudes. On every episode there is at least one juvenile that won’t change their ways and they feel that they can take on the world and that no one is better than them. Juveniles who don’t take things seriously have to spend a month or so in the “juvey” (the juvenile detention center). The thing that changes their outlook is when they find out that at the age of 17 you can be charged as adult and they won’t think twice about it. They think they can get away with stuff because they are between the ages of 12 – 16, but those are the ages that have the most crime and deaths happen at that age. There is a fact that has been pulled to the United States attention that they base how many jails they build based on the reading test scores on males in the 3rd grade. They believe “if his test scores aren’t high you know that means he will be a dropout and will become a drug dealer or will end up in the prison system somehow some type of way and they will no longer have a name they will go by the number that the state gives them to wear for the rest of their lives”. Most of the time their own family won’t even talk to them anymore some families don’t believe in talking to criminals. If you talk to any juvenile or adult that has been to jail or prison they will tell you how it feels to not talk to your family or how it feels to be told to do things and how you can’t leave and go as you please. It feels like you have no freedom at all you have to be told to go to school there to get you g.e.d and to eat at a certain time and to shower at certain time which is not fair but if you do the crime you gotta do the time.

Today’s trends for juvenile offenders, under the age of 18, show that they are given sentences as if they were adults if they commit a serious or unspeakable crime. “Statiscally juvenile offenders had the highest crime rate, from 1980-2010”. (Online, 2012) “The juvenile arrest rate for aggravated assault doubled between 1980 and the mid-1990s for males while the female rate increased by more than 17% (Online, 2012)”.

The thought process behind juvenile crime is complex. Society likes to think the answer is black or white meaning either you jail them or let them go. Each case has to be viewed on a case by case basis with the courts looking at many factors such as the situation surrounding the crime, the age of the juvenile at the time of the commission of the crime, and whether or not the juvenile has been in trouble before. These factors are also taken into consideration when and if the juvenile is found guilty. Maybe if today’s youth is given more positive attention these kids will be in a better position to go in the opposite direction of the negative influences that can send them in the wrong direction. We can spend our tax dollars on prisons or ways to change these kid’s lives and give them a chance to change themselves before prison becomes an alternative. One thing everybody hopes for is that once they commit the crime that it is a reality check saying hey doesn’t do that it not the right thing to do better you and make someone proud. Pay now or pay triple later for these offenders. It is your choice.

Works Cited

Blewett, D. (2013, November 17). how does it feel to be a juvenile offender. (m. holoman, Interviewer)

Kumli, k. (1995-2013). juvenile justice. Retrieved from juvenile justice: www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/juvenile/bench/whatittakes.html

Merino, N. (2010). Juvenile Crime . detroit Michgan.

Online, O. S. (2012, December 12). juvenile arrest rate trends . Retrieved from Office Of Juvenile Justice And Delinquency Prevention: http://www.ojjdp.gov/ojstatbb/crime/JAR_Display.asp?ID=qa05230

Redding, R. E. (2010, June). juvenile justice bulletin. Retrieved from u.s. department of justice: www.ojp.usdoj.gov/ojjdp

Regoli, R. M. (2007). Exploring Criminal Justice.

Shapiro, A. (Director). (1987). Scared Straight! [Motion Picture].

Shapiro, A. (Director). (2011). Beyond Scared Straight [Motion Picture].