History of juvenile justice and varying approaches to its prevention

The separation of the juvenile and adult courts traces its history to over a century ago through the development of two common English laws the Elizabethan era poor laws and the English chancery courts which were formed to address the needs of children. The 1535 poor laws mandated various appointed officials to supervise neglected or destitute children through the indenture process where the children would be offered training on domestic work, trade as well as agriculture services. (Hess, 2009). On completion of such training, they would be offered to competitive apprentices who hosted them for their labor services. Notably, the aim of these laws was not to cater to the juvenile delinquents but to assist the children who were incapacitated to live on their own. The chancery courts were created to address the needs of those not provided for in the common law courts or those who lacked a legal stand which included minors.

 In 1825, the child-saving movement became more profound and it created many programs for indigent youths with the core objective of reducing their risks of indulging in crime by rehabilitating or reforming them. The New York House of Reform was among the first institutions established to this effect. It accommodated children linked with vagrancy and petty crimes. (Hess, 2009). The residents were given chores to undertake under supervision. Strict discipline and educational training were also enhanced.  The chores allocated varied with age and gender. Males were trained on carpentry, nail making and shoe making while females were trained on sewing, laundry and domestic work. The New York House of Refuge was however criticized for being excessively strict on discipline and for separating the young people on gender basis. Some equated it to prisons. Other houses of refuge were however created over time and they included the 1826 House of Reformation for juvenile offenders.
 As a result of increased efforts by reformers or crusaders of childrens rights, there was the formation of independent institutions for the minors for instance the 1848 and 1849 Westborough and Rochester institutions. In 1853, the Children s Aid Society was formed under the leadership of Charles Brace with the aim of offering temporary accommodation and care to minors. These institutions were also criticized for their harsh discipline, gender and racial discrimination as well as poor physical care to the residents.

The Elizabethan poor laws triggered the development of core issues that played a role in the evolution of the juvenile justice. The role of the local control, the responsibilities of families as well as the distinction between the deserving and undeserving children based on gender and race were enhanced. The need to seek for other means of funding rather than relying purely on public funding was also apparent. According to the English law which was also used across the states of America, children were considered  parens patriae  or under the states responsibility. Eventually, the notion that children were morally superior compared to adults was embraced and courts could now rule in favor of  the best interest of the child . The family ideal doctrine was also adopted where states and community or public intervention would only be sought when the family had failed to amicably resolve the matters at hand especially those dealing with juveniles. Children played a vital role in the 19th century reforms along with other reforms such as capital punishment, women rights and alcoholism. Soon, apprentices who took children from institutions were required to offer them basic reading and writing skills, and males were taught simple arithmetic. The children, however, had the powers to revoke ill treatment as the state formally protected them. Nevertheless, their protection was not certain because in some states such as Kentucky, Missouri and Indiana there was outright racial discrimination, and black children were denied education.

As a way of reducing the expenses of running reformatory institutions, some states allowed private institutions to run such programs and offered them some subsidies. Other states liaised with businessmen to offer the children employment, a clear indication of collaborative efforts between the states and the communities in addressing juvenile delinquency. The family ideal principle was also allowed to take charge except on cases of failed families. The House of Refuge of 1850s and 1960s were also faced by the challenges of overcrowding, limited funds and mismanagement which threatened their goal realizations. The development of pubic schools led to the increased power of the teachers over the parents as disciplinary agents.

The first juvenile court, Chicago Juvenile Court, was established in 1899 and was a result of the children welfare traditions. The children crime cases would now be heard in a separate court than that of adults. (Karnik and Steiner, 2007). Other characteristics of the juvenile system included private hearing, confidential records, complaint systems, detention homes as well as probation officers who were either omitted or funded by the public.

Examination of all stakeholders to juvenile delinquency
Children are treated under the juvenile courts when they engage in criminal activities as are applicable to other citizens and for the  status  offences such as theft which are common among children for instance truancy. Juvenile courts lack the  due process  formal protection as it was not formed to punish offenders and, hence, the higher numbers of mental health professionals.

Stakeholders in the juvenile justice system include the police, juvenile courts, intake and probation staff attorneys for the state, the child and, in some instances, the parents, juvenile detention centers, juvenile correctional facilities and social agencies which deal with the placement on order of juvenile courts. (Houchins et al., 2005).  Each of these stakeholders has its responsibilities and expectations to meet their points of references. They do not necessarily have to work in harmony with each other or share their values. Their varied responsibilities demand varied professional training. The institutions of juvenile justice work together with other child-based institutions such as schools to ensure harmony in the society. For instance a probation officer monitors the academic performance of a youth offender. They however require public resources and are affected by the politics of the day. The probation officers are responsible for the programs development which depends on the nature of crime in question.

(Houchins et al., 2005).  The detention facilities are categorized into secure or nonsecure where young offenders are held as they await their adjudication or when they wait being transferred to other institutions for rehabilitation. The nonsecure detention group s homes can be run by private individuals or firms. The family court judge under whom the juvenile cases are heard determines whether a juvenile will be held in a secure or nonsecure detention. The police officers are responsible in the process of apprehension after cases have been reported against a juvenile offender. The police may personally accompany the offender into the family courts or they may award them a letter to see a probation officer within their locality. The community at large is involved in the sense that juvenile crimes affect every one. The community s role in as far as strategies in the prevention of juvenile delinquency are concerned can also not be underscored. For effective reentry into the society, juvenile offenders require institutions in the society such as schools, the employers as well as their families. (National Academy of Sciences, 2010).

Issues addressed
In their book, Criminal Justice in England and United States, Sasse et al. noted that juvenile delinquency has triggered varying debates across the centuries as some favor rehabilitative approaches while others advocate punitive-based programs and an approach that embraces punishment and rehabilitation. In the 1800s, increasing urban population was coupled with increased instances of neglected children who played a significant role in as far as crime was concerned. This triggered the need for appropriate programs to address the children s need.  During this period, the childrens age of criminal responsibility was seven years. Children were punished slightly different from the adult criminals but they were accorded severe punishment such as death for up to 200 offenses. Notably, although there were harsh punitive measures on delinquent children, such cases were rare as the judges were lenient on young offenders. Adults and children were held in similar correctional facilities, all with the aim of deterring crime although the opposite occurred. The perception by the reformers that juvenile delinquency was a result of poverty, societal influences and parental neglect saw the law or the criminal justice system favor rehabilitation as opposed to punitive measures against children. (United States Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, 1996).

The classification of juvenile delinquents as violent or nonviolent offenders, serious or chronic, allows easy and effective allocation of available resources. Such classification is also essential in ensuring that juvenile cases are accorded the attention they require, thus reducing the chances for recurrent crimes or delinquent acts. A serious juvenile offender is one guilty of crimes such as theft, arson, drug trafficking and other substance-related violations. Violent juvenile offenders are defined as those guilty of heinous crimes such as rape, while chronic offenders are guilty of more than one crime.

The major issues addressed under juvenile justice system are the age limit in terms of who is considered a child which varies among states and the causes of juvenile delinquency which are vital in resolving the problem. How to treat some cases of juvenile crimes is also an issue to be explored. The legal definition of a child or childhood is influenced by many factors as policy makers tend to adopt conflicting viewpoints depending on the issues at hand considering them as mature at certain times while immature at others. Children are considered incompetent to make vital decisions. They are denied privileges that are enjoyed by adults such as driving, voting and making vital medical-based decisions. The state or the families, parents or guardians are entrusted with children and are required to offer them proper education which is vital in transforming them into responsible or productive adults in future.

Possible strategies and interventions designed to stop juvenile delinquency
There are three major strategies to address juvenile delinquency, and they include preventive strategies, early intervention strategies as well as the community building strategy. The preventive strategies encompass primary and secondary strategies to juveniles at risk of delinquent behaviors, while the early intervention strategies are at the tertiary level for the nonviolent or petty offenders and aim at preventing more harm. Prevention involves the use of early childhood and family interventions. (United States Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, 1996). At the social and community level, there are school-based, community-based and peer-based interventions  while at the family level, there are multisystemic and multidimensional treatment foster care. At the individual level, there are individual psychotherapy and biological interventions. The multisystemic treatment uses a management approach with trained therapists who work towards empowering the family. The multidimensional treatment foster care uses an intensive model to reparent as well as resocialize the offenders. This approach relies on the presence of foster parents in a highly structured approach to monitor as well as reward young offenders. Individual interventions are weak to impose as the young offender does not live in isolation but within a family or social network. However, young offenders with a high level of aggression could be given this approach.

According to the National Academic Press, various prevention strategies can be adopted in as far as addressing juvenile delinquency is concerned. Given that parental interactions were seen to have effects on the children in question in their later life stages, parents were expected to be models or positive figures in the society (National Academy of Sciences, 2010). Harshness within the family was established to cause increased coerciveness and rebellion among the children increasing their chances of engaging in delinquent acts. Parents at risk of developing antisocial behaviors which they risk transferring biologically to their children such as teenage pregnant women are assisted to adjust amicably. They are also advised to avoid alcohol, nicotine and other drugs and substances as well as to observe proper health. Family intervention programs include adolescent transition programs and home visitation programs. (National Academy of Sciences, 2010).

According to the Coordination of Council of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention National Action Plan, some strategies adopted to address juvenile delinquency include the creation of more opportunities for the young people to engage in community-based activities. This way, idleness which triggers the enrollment in criminal gangs and drug-related issues is eliminated. The council also advocates the amicable addressing of the drug issue which is highly related to crime and delinquency among the youth through citizen patrols and neighborhood watches. It further advocates planning at the community level to address risk factors for the juveniles by promoting a drug- and gun-free school environment. To be effective, there is a need for collaborative efforts in the entire society. The schools, child welfare, individuals, groups and communities must work in harmony towards attaining this goal. (United States Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, 1996).

Advantages and disadvantages of  strategiesinterventions used
Alternative forms of treatment include boot camps, community-based wrap-around care and victim offender reconciliation also known as mediation (Flash, 2003).  The effectiveness of alternative measures to approaches is in most cases compromised by the lack of patience as well as the need to respond to the public s desire of tough measures on crime. Treatment forms are also criticized on the grounds that they are based on abstract concepts such as empathy and the belief that an offenders attitude will change.

Mediation approach
Under the mediation approach, victims confront their offenders and agree on the retributive action to be taken with regard to the crime in question. It is based on the understanding that crime is normal in the society. The major principles under the mediation process are that peace is achievable through mediation, victims have a right to be heard and that solutions lie between conflicting parties. A third party, who should speak in less than 25 of the entire negotiation, is used and a neutral place is selected to ensure that all parties are comfortable. The mediation process in juvenile justice is used mostly between young offenders and adult victims. One s criminal history as well as the nature of the crime determines its applicability.

Advantages of the mediation approach
It embraces a humanistic touch or feeling in the juvenile justice system. It ensures restorative justice. It perceives that offenses committed are against an individual rather than the state. It is a creative and empowering approach to resolve issues. It suffices in the face of an influx in the number of youth offenders and minimal resources (Flash, 2003).

Disadvantages of the mediation approach
In cases of repeat offences, its applicability is minimal.

Boot camps
They were initially for adults and have a similar structure across the states. Some boot camps have aftercare programs while others do not, and the duration of the offenders is less than six months.

They adopt a punitive and rehabilitative approach. It embraces a tough attitude to crime while educating the offenders on vital issues in life which can see them change their attitudes to crime, delinquency and life opportunities.

The recidivism effects of boot camps are highly questionable. They are viewed by some as not any different from the traditional incarceration and are dismissed as  quick fixes .

Community Based Wrap-Around Care
There has been an increased need to involve the communities in juvenile justice systems. Such programs aim at offering care within the community to reduce reoffending among the youth. It advocates continued observation of important values, but note that family members should address issues such as self esteem, self-concept and peer pressure (Flash, 2003).
It takes place in a family setup and within the community. It utilizes familiar personalities such elders, clergy men and teachers, and thus lowering costs of operation.

The lack of an effective caregiver may compromise the effectiveness of community-based care as a preventive strategy in the juvenile justice system.Juvenile justice prevention and intervention strategies in the next two decades

Projections have it that the rate of juvenile violent crime offenders might double if the status quo was maintained, thus calling for the treatment of this issue with the urgency that it deserves. Although community efforts need the backing of the state as well as the local government, an individual commitment is required to address juvenile delinquency. At the community level, there could be set local centers that promote positive education, social and cultural authorities aimed at keeping the youth engaged.  The serious juvenile offenders ought to be punished or rehabilitated effectively and those that fail to reform should be charged in criminal courts.  It is also important to address the issue of youth victimization, abuse as well as neglect which encourage recurrent violence among juveniles. There is a need for investment in the research and data collection as well as in dissemination of relevant information in the juvenile justice system and the other juvenile facilities. Funding other youth developments such as the after-school programs, provision of part time summer or child care especially among the low income families are also important in reducing juvenile delinquency. Over 35 of the crimes reported involving juveniles are property-based which clearly illustrates the relationship between crime and the economy. Addressing the societal problems that trigger crime will be more emphasized in the next two decades as community intervention is encouraged to resolve the issue.


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