Correction of juvenile offenders is an issue that attracts different opinions from various people. There always exists a conflict between the need to protect the young delinquents and the need to maintain order, reduce the crime rate in communities, and administer justice for the victims of the crimes committed by juveniles (Finley, 2007). Historically the juvenile justice system has come under serious pressure as juvenile crimes increase (Forst & Blomquist, 1991). In a jurisdiction where delinquency rates are high, rehabilitation does not show good outcomes and gang crimes are high; the juvenile system must be adjusted to handle this situation adequately. This paper aims to cover what changes should be made in such a jurisdiction to improve rehabilitation of delinquents ad the measures that should be taken to reduce gang crimes.
To solve the issue of juvenile delinquency, this paper suggests three types of changes: changes in the retribution of offenders, improvement in correction and prevention measures. Regarding retribution, the juvenile justice system must be adjusted so that youthful offenders get adequately sanctioned for their offenses. This should preferably be done at earlier stages of their lives. For correction to ensue, the juvenile offenders must be made accountable for the crimes they commit (Finley, 2007). One way of ensuring proper retribution involves creating a graduated system of sanctions to be used within the district by all judges. Funding of the juvenile justice system should also be increased to facilitate an increase in the number of personnel involved in the system. This would reduce the workload on current personnel such as court counselors and would consequently make the system more efficient. Other nonconventional methods of punishment such as restitution to the victims and the community through community service should be sought. These would increase the accountability of youth for their crimes and hopefully reduce repeat offenses.
An efficient justice system should also strive to rehabilitate offenders. Measures to improve correction of offenders should include setting up of more secure confinement facilities where delinquent youths are rehabilitated. An alternative approach would involve expanding community-based methods which are cheaper than confinement. Day treatment program for offenders could also be established such that a delinquent can access continued correction while he/she is still within the community. These are cheaper than holding delinquent youth in correction institution.
Juvenile delinquency and juvenile gang operations are closely related. Typically, juveniles advance from being delinquent to joining gangs (Cloward & Ohlin, 2013). In some cases, participating groups may lead youth to delinquency. Due to this reason, prevention measures needed to reduce the two are almost similar. The prevention measures should involve reducing the exposure of kids to the risk factors that have been identified to lead to the two. With both, a community approach requiring the input of all community members is needed (Mendel, 2003). This involves strengthening institutions in the community to ensure that kids do not get exposed to crime and gang life and to pull those already engaged out. Some specific measures should be followed.
As a start, community policing program should be expanded such that each community member is on the lookout to identify juvenile crime and formation of gangs which they then report to the authorities. This would ensure that measures are taken to stop them before they develop and become more dangerous. Since involvement in the delinquent act and with gangs tends to occur more after school, after-school programs could be put in place to reduce the time available to kids. These activities are engaging and could also potentially reduce drug and substance abuse as well as teen pregnancy. Also crucial in the prevention of delinquency is the training of parents so that they can identify delinquent acts in their children and know how to go about it. This would also be important in reducing juvenile involvement in gangs. Other measures include establishing mentorship programs for youth and reducing the number of dropouts from school by offering graduation incentives. Law enforcement officers should also be more coordinated in identifying youth gangs and empowered to stop truant youths. All these interventions should be put in place for all juveniles from the low-risk ones to the high-risk juveniles, though with varying intensity.
In conclusion, the juvenile justice system requires a lot of changes if it is to adequately solve the problems presented by high delinquency rates and increased gang violence. The system would need to improve in both its retribution and rehabilitation of offenders. On top of these improvements, the community also has a role to play primarily in the prevention and early identification of delinquency. When changes are taken to improve the justice system, and the community plays its part well, then a decrease in juvenile delinquency and gang crimes is undoubtedly imminent.
- Cloward, R.A., & Ohlin, L.E. (2013). Delinquency and opportunity: A study of delinquent gangs (Vol. 6). London, UK: Routledge.
- Finley, L. (2007). Juvenile Justice. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.
- Forst, Martin F. & Blomquist, Martha-Elin. (1991). “Cracking Down On Juveniles: The Changing Ideology Of Youth Corrections” Notre Dame Journal Of Law, Ethics & Public Policy, 5(2), 323-375.
- Mendel, R. (2003). Youth, Crime and Community Development: A guide for Collaborative Action. Columbia, MD: Enterprise Foundation.