Children at early age are normally vulnerable to behavior which, if not effectively addressed, as they progress into adolescent period, can make them potential criminal offenders. In addressing this concern, most countries have incorporated juvenile justice system. This is intended to prevent children or youths from engaging in criminal activities. However, such practices, which have involved enormous governmental and non-governmental spending, have not effectively prevented the young people from becoming criminal offenders. It is in this regard that this paper seeks to identify the effective ways in which juvenile delinquency can be prevented.
According to Chambliss (2011), juvenile delinquency entails all prohibited public offences, as stated by a state’s law, that are committed by young people who are under the age of 18 years old. He notes that while criminologist normally see persons between the age of 12 and 20 years as potential minors who are capable of forming a criminal intent and, thus, are reliable to criminal charges, sociologists view this concept differently. He points out that sociologists believe that juvenile delinquency encompasses the violation of different legal and social norms by juveniles. Such norms range from minor offences to serious crimes. These crimes, resulting from their close connectivity with particular age status, are normally associated with specific youths’ behaviors as normally witnessed in their social environment.
As pointed out by Flores (2006), while delinquency is firmly associated with characteristics that are inhibited during the period and process of development in an adult, it normally creates future active adult criminal groups. He notes that, juvenile peer groups normally show high levels of social tolerance, hierarchical organizational framework, and coded conducts that denotes the rejection of adult values. Lack of these adult experience and values enables these juvenile groups to adopt other pre-dominant values that are captured by entertainment industry and group-based values that are against family values and norms (Flores, 2006). Therefore, these groups engage in massive theft, robbery, rape, murder, and atrocious bodily harm that, if not prevented during the early developmental stage, can cause grievous violation of human rights. This paper, thus, discusses ways of preventing juvenile delinquency.
Preventing Juvenile Delinquency
According to Saminsky (2010), early-phase intervention can be the best approach of preventing juvenile delinquency. He terms early-phase intervention as the incorporation of programs from the child’s birth to his or her early adolescent stage before the onset of delinquent behaviors. He notes that this early childhood period normally presents young children with unique adaptation to both enriching and supportive environments. Therefore, if successfully utilized, the group can be alleviated from antisocial values.
As pointed out by Flores (2006), children normally require therapeutic effort that can ultimately return them to normal pattern of development. This requires individual, group, and organizational approach that will instill good moral and social behaviors and values among the children as they grow towards their adolescent period. Such interventions can keep them from committing criminal offences. The premises at which these groups can engage in such effort are also depicted in the Bible teachings. Josh (2011) notes that, Proverbs 22:6 points to the need for a child to be trained in the correct way to ensure that she/he does not depart to other unaccepted ways during their adulthood.
According to Saminsky (2010), various states have initiated preschool and parental educational programs and services that allow young children to engage in positive self-appraisal, and control in dealing with any conflict or aggressiveness that he or she encounters. This helps in setting out patterns that will prevent future eruption of delinquency among the children. Saminsky notes that engaging children in early school programs expounds on their IQ scores and functioning that not only betters their school achievements, but also reduces their rate of aggression and, thus, eruption of antisocial behaviors. This is because early education enables children in developing social and cognitive skills that give them better and insightful approaches of countering any conflict and controlling any form of aggression.
Flores (2006) notes that negative consequences of the social and economic development are normally the main contributors to juvenile delinquency. He points out that consequences such as political instability and economic crises have caused the weakening of both the public and private institutions that are essential for a child’s development. The fall of these institutions has, thus, negatively affected their efficiency in service delivery. This has resulted into ineffective public school systems, inadequate public assistance, and improper family make up thereby putting children at risk especially in adopting to criminal activities. For instance, children who actively participate in effective school systems are unlikely to drop out of the school and engage in delinquent behaviors due to the developed reasoning attitude (Saminsky, 2010).
According to Chambliss (2011), early intervention programs can only be effective in preventing juvenile delinquency if the involved school, and law-enforcement agencies support parental involvement. He notes that children normally develop disruptive behaviors at their preschool and child period depending on the language, temperamental characteristics, and their attachment to care givers. This implies that the constituted programs should conform to family settings. Flores (2006) notes that language usage by both the parents and those surrounding the children have direct impact on their behaviors. He argues that children with undeveloped language system normally become rogue and aggressive especially in cases where they have been defeated to adjust. With such attributes, they easily commit various offences.
Additionally, Flores (2006) points out that parental attachment is essential in child’s development especially in addressing future delinquency problems. Children normally inhibit behaviors based on their close contact with their care givers as they develop self-identity, self-control and the prospects of social relationship. Therefore, caregivers should not only nurture and instill good behaviors to children, but they should also demonstrate good values that conform to their teaching and practices. Josh (2011) adds that Colossians 3:21 warns the fathers never to provoke their children lest they discourage them. This implies that parents should engage in activities that mentor children even in cases where their children show signs of failure.
On the other hand, Flores (2006) points out that it is by understanding the risks factors associated with children’s delinquency that one can develop appropriate strategies that can help prevent juvenile delinquency. For instance, he notes that early risk factors are normally identified by predictors such as a child’s aggressiveness and sensations. According to him, such delinquent behaviors are widely contributed by the presence of antisocial and substance-abusing parents who have poor parenting practices. He points out that schools and states should come up with mentoring and comprehensive community and after recreational school programs which can help relieve children from stress which would instill delinquent behaviors into them.
Flores (2009) notes that a number of towns in the United States have established recreation and development activities and made them accessible to the youth. Such recreational activities have been found to reduce the number of crimes conducted by the youths. For example, the report by Columbia University found that there was a reduction of 13 percent on crime committed by the youths when they were engaged in Boys’ and Girls’ club within a public housing project (Flore, 2009).
Chambliss (2011) points out that another way in which juvenile delinquency can be prevented is by initiating punitive juvenile programs. He notes that these programs are normally intended to suppress juvenile and youth offenders by making them to develop fear through the understanding that there is the possibility of being projected to severe punishment based on the actions they take. While supporting the idea, Petrosino, Turpin & Buehler (2009) note that creating juvenile awareness program that suppresses the future offender from committing the same act can help in preventing juvenile delinquency. For instance, “Scared Straight,” program in which children are taken to witness what the prisoners go through, has impacted positively in reducing delinquent activities among the youths and children.
Therefore, Petrosino, Turpin & Buehler (2009) point out that most states have engaged psychological treatment programs such as Multisystemic Therapy (MST) in addressing antisocial behaviors in juvenile offenders. Flores (2006) notes that MST are intensive family and community-based approaches that are incorporated in promoting good behaviors among the youths as they adapt to the changing environment. He points out that the program often equip parents with adequate skills and resources required for them to independently and adequately address family, peer, neighborhood, and school problems associated with their children as they raise them.
According to Flores (2006), MST normally engages the professional training of police officers, mental health practitioners, and parents of how to provide interdisciplinary intervention to the victim, witness or offenders of juvenile crimes. It aims at restoring the justice system through promoting reconciliation between the juvenile offender and the victim. Josh (2011) quotes from the bible in Mathew 7:12 that points out that every person ought to do to others what they would be happy if they were done unto. Flores (2006) notes that crime restitution, which entails the offender being punished for the act committed, can also help restore an individual.
In conclusion, juvenile delinquency is an offense that can be effectively prevented. The write up has pointed out the need for the government and other institutions to fund family- and community-based programs instead of offering more funds to incarceration facilities. These programs would impact positively children’s and youth’s behaviors thereby preventing or reducing their engagement in delinquent activities. Such programs targeting the family and the community are normally cost effective and should be intensified. Moreover, children and youth should be engaged in recreational activities that presented them with less risk of indulging in delinquent behaviors and activities.