Juvenile delinquency is neither a new phenomenon nor an uncommon occurrence. In the recent decades, juvenile delinquency has been on the rise. Acts of delinquency are multifaceted and include crimes against the public order, crimes against other persons, drug offenses, and crime against property. Many young people, therefore, continue engaging in such crimes as drugs and substances abuse, violence, gang, and violation of public orders. Considering that many young people engage in criminal behaviors, there is the urgent need to combat juvenile delinquency. Thus, the delinquency prevention measures or programs help the young people considered at-risk of delinquent behavior or those who are already engaging in crime from engaging in criminal acts or getting used to the juvenile justice system. This article, therefore, discusses some of the community programs for combating juvenile delinquency.
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There are two main programs in the community that seek to prevent the at-risk juveniles and also intervene for those already engaging in juvenile delinquency. These are the introduction of specialty courts and mentorship programs. It is evident that juveniles are at risk of engaging in serious crimes including drug abuse, violence, vandalism, and shoplifting. The community has found it fit and necessary to have specialty courts instead of sending juvenile offenders to one court. The current specialty courts in the community include drug court, teen court, gun court, and mental health court.
The at-risk juvenile offenders taken to the drug court are expected to undergo treatment for drugs and substances. Additionally, they are scheduled to undergo random but observed tests for drugs. Secondly, the juveniles accused of non-violent use of guns are taken to gun court. In the gun court, the attorneys together with the other law enforcement personnel have an initiative of talking to the affected juveniles. Similarly, the community members who have suffered from gunshot wounds or those who have lost their loved ones through gunshots play a role in discouraging the accused from engaging in delinquent behaviors. Teenagers who engage in non-violent crimes and status offenses are taken to teen courts. Teen courts are comprised of a jury of peers. It makes the offenders free to speak out and even emulate the peer juries and even abstain from criminal acts. It is common that people and especially teenagers who suffer from mental health are at high risk of committing crimes. For this reason, the community has considered referring this category of at-risk juveniles to the mental health court. Therefore, these juveniles with serious mental problems are monitored for some time and taken through programs that deter them from committing crimes.
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The second program is mentorship. The mentorship program provides at-risk juveniles with consistent and positive adult contact. Mentorship is essential in promoting healthy development and functioning as well as reducing crime risk factors. Thus, mentoring is aimed at improving a child’s school attendance and performance as well as improving peer and social relationships. The community has thus identified some volunteer mentors who are matched with the mentee. One volunteer may be assigned one or a group of mentee depending on the number of the mentees. To ensure that all at-risk and juvenile offenders are mentored, the community has introduced various mentorship programs including informal mentoring, formal mentoring, community-based mentoring, and school-based mentoring.
The main sociological theories that influence the mentorship and the specialty court interventions are differential association theory and the social bond theory. According to Butts and Ortiz (2011) the differential association theory, individuals learn the techniques, attitudes, motives, and values of criminal behavior. Conversely, the association of at-risk group with the positive people alters the propensity for engaging in delinquency (Butts & Ortiz, 2011). The social bond theory, on the other hand, holds that delinquency results when an individual’s attachment to the society is weakened (Peterson, Lee, Henninger, & Cubellis, 2016). The primary elements of this theory include attachment, beliefs, involvement, and commitment. Thus, an individual’s conformity is determined by how strongly they are bonded to the peers, adults, parents, and teachers.
One of the ideas that would help improve the community’s juvenile delinquency prevention efforts is the introduction of Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) Community-Based Mentoring (CBM) Program. According to Herrera, Grossman, Kauh, and McMaken (2011), the challenges that parents encounter while encouraging children to ensure positive behaviors and academic excellence can be dealt with through mentorship. While these challenges are prominent in homes where adults mentors are unavailable, Keating e al. (2002) suggest that the gap can be sufficiently filled by such mentorship as the Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) Community-Based Mentoring Program.
In conclusion, as the community has become aware of the delinquency risks exposed to the juveniles they have found it favorable to come up with intervention measures of curbing the same. Consequently, the community identified both mentoring and specialty courts as the main interventions. These programs are effective in preventing at-risk juveniles from engaging in delinquency and may also help in reforming the juvenile offenders.
- Butts, J. A., & Ortiz, J. (2011). Teen Courts–Do They Work and Why?. New York State Bar
- Association Journal, 83(1), 18-21.
- Herrera, C., Grossman, J. B., Kauh, T. J., & McMaken, J. (2011). Mentoring in schools: An
- impact study of Big Brothers Big Sisters school‐based mentoring. Child Development, 82(1), 346-361.
- Keating, L. M., Tomishima, M. A., Foster, S., & Alessandri, M. (2002). The effects of a
- mentoring program on at-risk youth. Adolescence, 37(148), 717.
- Peterson, B. E., Lee, D., Henninger, A. M., & Cubellis, M. A. (2016). Social Bonds, Juvenile
- Delinquency, and Korean Adolescents: Intra-and Inter-Individual Implications of Hirschi’s Social Bonds Theory Using Panel Data. Crime & Delinquency, 62(10), 1337-1363.