Reviewing Youth Crime Criminal Justice Criminology Essay

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'The concept of juvenile delinquency was legislated into existence and subsequently became the basis of public fear and concern', Discuss. Before the 17th Century there was no conception of childhood, adolescence or youth, therefore childhood was not known as a 'social problem' (P.Aries, 1962); direct responsibility was placed on the parents to provide a safe and disciplined upbringing of their child. In pre-industrial societies children interacted with adults in everyday life, they did not live in a separate world or behave differently and were not subject to different codes of morality and propriety (Muncie,2009, p.48). Children were involved in a number of activities such as drinking alcohol, manual working, gambling, and leisure and in sport to a far greater degree than they might do today. In which today's society 'now define as inappropriate In order to safeguard their 'innocence' and morality' (Empey, 1982, p.33).

In 1819 and 1833 Factory Acts stipulated that no child under the age of 9 was to be employed in mills and factories and those under the age of 13 were limited to work 8 hours per day, and 18 year olds were limited to working 12 hours a day (Muncie, 2009, p.51). The Factory Act legislation meant that children under the age of 13 were no longer able to work. Therefore while parents were at work children were left to their own plans or ignored. This legislation marked the first step in acknowledging a 'universal' childhood, and Hendrick's 'Competing conceptions of childhood' went from the 'Factory child' to be replaced by the'delinquent child'.

The urban youth population grew rapidly when the factory Act legislation was made. A growing number of children were fundamentally displaced within such adverse social and economic conditions. This gravitated towards 'delinquent' activities/ petty crime in order to survive. Only privileged classes could afford the 'luxury of childhood with its demands on material provision, time and emotion' (Jenks, 1996, p.64).As a result, as late as the mid-nineteenth century the majority of children participated in acts which committed today, could not only result in their being delinquent but could require parents to be charged with negligence or contributing to their child's delinquency.

In the 18TH Century the meaning of 'childhood' was confusing and not predetermined. Juvenile delinquency came about in the early to mid nineteenth century and was primarily acknowledged as a major social problem. 'Rapid growth of industrial capitalism, factory production and high-density urban population condition of labouring class became the object of the middle class concern' (Muncie, 2009). By 1914 the uncertainty of the term 'childhood' had been practically resolved and the characteristics of childhood were largely determined, to the satisfaction of the middle class and the respectable working class. A 'modern' conception of childhood was in place: it was legally, legislatively, socially, medically, psychologically, educationally and politically institutionalized. (Hendrick, 2002).

'Once childhood was a feature of parental or maybe maternal discourse, the currency of educators and the sole theoretical property of developmental psychology, now the child has become popularised, politicised, scrutinised and analysed in a series of interlocking spaces…' (Jenks, 2001)

Changes in the perception of childhood led to new ideas about the ways in which the delinquent and vulnerable young should be handled by the state. In 1908 the government introduced the Children's Act. Herbert Samuel, the Home Secretary, used the new Children Act to consolidate and simplify a number of existing pieces of legislation, as well as to introduce new features. Children became protected persons, which meant that parents who ill-treated or neglected their children could now be prosecuted. The Act also banned the sale of alcohol and tobacco to children and banned them from working in dangerous trades like scrap metal. While the Act made the law clearer in certain areas, it further extended the power of the state to determine family matters, and it formally introduced the juvenile court to the British legal systems.

"Childhood is the most intensively governed sector of personal existence. In different ways, at different times, and by many different routes varying from one section of society to another, the health, the welfare, and rearing of children have been linked in thought and practice to the destiny of the nation and the responsibilities of the state" N Rose, Governing the soul (London, Routledge, 1989)

In 1933 the minimum age of criminal responsibility had been 7 but section 50 of the Children and Young person's Act 1933 raised it to 8. The Criminal Justice Act 1963 then raised it to 10, even though across European countries it is usually 14 or above. Children below the minimum age are universally deemed to be doli incapax or 'incapable of evil'.

The mid 19TH Century and early 20TH Century was undoubtedly the turning point for juvenile justice, it bacame the bias of public fear and concern. The Media plays a enormous part in creating public fear as it has degenereated from journalism into sensationalist "eye candy". The media consists of not reporting what is happening and allowing the viewer to make up his/her mind about it, but instead fuels public opinion via a whole host of gossip, speculation, implication and entertainment. Chibnall (1977) referred to as the 5 informal 'rules of relevancy' that governs how popular crime journalism decides what news is newsworthy, the 'rules' are visible and spectacular acts physical or sexual violence, graphic presentation, notions of individual pathology, demands for a firm deterrent and retributive response.

12TH Febuary 1993, shopping centre in Bootle, Merseyside two 10 year old boys abducted a 2 year old James Bulger, who was found two days latter battered to death near a railway line. The media found incredible news value in t he Bulger case being unusual and unexpected, it was automatically considered newsworthy. This case raised interminable fears of a failing justice system and, set in motion fears about juvenile crime in particular and demonization of young people in general.

The term juvenile delinquency has given young youths across the country a label, the hypodermic of media and tabloids have increased the fear of the public and concern about youths in today's society. 'Research demonstrates that criminalisation of children tends to lead towards a criminal career. It also stigmatises the child and alienates them from society, creates problems of self-esteem, encourages the child to mix with other young people who have offended and creates barriers in the way of return to education or future employment'

The media mainly uses fear to control the public, general public in addition with ignorance along with the fear from the media results in control over the public. Before the 17TH century there was no creation of chilhood as it simply did not exist, crime rates were realatively low for youths as they were treated in the same manor as adults and shared the same activites and laws. The more legislations introduced the more fear and concern grew on the public.

The problem of juvenile delinquency is becoming more complicated and universal, and crime prevention programmes are either unequipped to deal with the present realities or do not exist. Many developing countries have done little or nothing to deal with these problems, and international programmes are obviously insufficient. Developed countries are engaged in activities aimed at juvenile crime prevention, but the overall effect of these programmes is rather weak because the mechanisms in place are often inadequate to address the existing situation.