Juvenile crime is the participation by minors in different kinds of illegal behaviors. A word ‘minor’, in this case, refers to individuals below the statutory age of majority, commonly eighteen years and seventeen years in the cities, such as New York and North Carolina. The antisocial behavior by the minors is classified as a juvenile crime if the act would have otherwise been charged as a crime if the offender was an adult. Juvenile offending may be classified into two broad categories, i.e. the status offenses, such as truancy and underage smoking which are dealt with by the juvenile courts and criminal behaviors, which are handled by the criminal justice system (Feld & Bishop, 2013).
More so, the juvenile offenders may also be divided into repeat offenders and specific offenders, whereby the repeat offenders exhibit antisocial behaviors in the adolescence stage and continue to the adulthood. On the contrary, the specific offenders start the unruly behavior in adolescence, and by the end of the stage, the individual no longer exhibits the antisocial behavior. It is critical for the parents of teenagers and youths, in collaboration with the juvenile justice system, to account for the minors behavior to determine whether the individuals will be repeat offenders or adolescence stage offenders. According to Lerner (2015), parenting styles and peer group influences are the major contributors of a majority of the juvenile crimes. Permissive parenting that refers to the absence of consequence based discipline and authoritarian parenting that refers to harsh, unjustified discipline are the major mistakes of permissive parenting that leads to high rates of crime among the minors.
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In the earlier periods of the nineteenth century, the common law subjected the youths above fourteen years old to punishments and sentences, similar to those of the adults. In the early years of the 19th century, juvenile justice systems were formed with the aim of diverting the minors from the harsh punishments in the criminal courts and encourage behavioral changes in agreement with the individual needs of children.
The juvenile court system is different from the adults’ criminal courts in some ways, ranging from the objectives, the proceedings and the language used. For the objectives, the juvenile system focused more on the minor as an individual in need of help and not on the offense, as it was common in the criminal court. Besides, the court proceedings in the juvenile system were informal with procedural safeguards, such as the right to confront the accuser deemed not to be of benefit to the minor.
More so, the court proceedings were kept private and confidential in an attempt to enhance the ability of the minor to change behavior and get integrated back into the society. Lastly, the nature of the language used in the juvenile courts was simplified and made friendlier. For example, the minors were not charged with crimes but with delinquencies, not sent to prisons but to reformatory schools and not found guilty but instead delinquent.
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Nevertheless, in the period of 1950’s and 1960’s, there was the massive public concern about the efficiency of the juvenile system, since it was dependent on the discretion of the judge, leading to huge disparities in the decisions made. As a result, the Supreme Court formalized the structure of the juvenile courts and introduced various process protections, such as the right to counsel (Lerner, 2015). In addition, formal hearings were introduced, and, in severe cases, the minors would be transferred to the adult courts or long-term confinement issued. Besides, in the 1980’s, the public perceived the juvenile courts as too lenient, a factor that led to increased crime rates. As a result, more severe laws were passed among them, being the automatic transfers to the adults’ courts. The strict laws ensured that the severe crimes were handled by the criminal justice system, leading to a reduction in the number of minors held up in the juveniles. The reduction of leniency in the juvenile courts has led to many states closing down the correctional institutions by the late 1990’s.
Concerning the sanction of the minors, they should be treated differently from the adults, since their level of maturity, intellectual capacity and life experiences are by far different with those of the adults. The minors are in their growth and development process and may not fully comprehend the consequences of their behaviors, in comparison with a mature individual who engages in unlawful behavior, while being fully aware of the impacts of the act. Nevertheless, the minor should not be let scot-free, hence less punitive measures should be taken against him or her to discourage a repeat of the act and serve as a lesson to other minors who may be contemplating to engage in crimes.
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Furthermore, according to Shoemaker (2013), the younger individuals are, the more likely it is for them to change their behaviors after the punitive measures are imposed on them. It is most likely that an adult who has spent a majority of his life in prison commits the same crime again in comparison to a minor who spends a few months in a juvenile and may never repeat the offence, hence justifying the different treatment.
In conclusion, on crimes relating to the use of weapons, the adults are responsible the weapons they own; in case the rules are not followed, the adults should be aligned in court for improper care of the weapons. In support of the rehabilitation centers, I believe that they give second chances to the minors to redefine their lives and, in the end, are beneficial to the society. More so, it is much better to have a society of juvenile reformists than the society of ex-convicts who have spent all their adult life in jail and are most likely to repeat the committed crimes.