Juvenile delinquency is a legal term that describes the behavior of children and adolescents that would be considered criminal of adults. What people consider to be juveniles varies throughout the United States. In some places the maximum age for a juvenile is 14 while in others places it is 21. Juveniles between the ages of 16 and 20 have the highest rate of the most serious crimes. A high number of adult criminals have a juvenile delinquency record. The most common offense in children is theft. Rape and more serious property crimes are usually committed in older youth. These types of behavior can stem from a number of things including psychological, social, and economic factors. Gangs are also a major source of delinquency. In general, the juvenile justice system focuses more on correction rather than punishment. Delinquency rates are highest in the more economically and technologically advanced countries. (Juvenile Delinquency 2013)
When we think about a juvenile delinquent, we tend to think of the offender as a male. When thinking about crime, very rarely do we picture female offenders. However, girls are actually the fastest growing population in the juvenile justice system. While it holds true that males are more prone to committing property crimes and violent crimes, females are more likely to get involved in the system due to running away from home. When females are caught up in an abusive way of life they are more likely to run way and adopt the “street life”. This is extremely dangerous for young women. Not only are they at risk to being exposed to hard core drugs, but prostitution and human trafficking are also a huge risk factor for young women who run away. The fast growing rate of female juvenile offenders is leaving the juvenile justice system stumped and unprepared. The system lacks the knowledge they need to deal with these girls as well as programs that could be used to help these girls.
Research shows that many girls involved in the juvenile justice system have some things in common. For example, they have been exposed to trauma or abuse, have mental health and academic problems, and come from multi problem families. When females become involved in the system, they are more likely to have problematic backgrounds than male offenders of the same age. (Wong 2013) Many times, girls who have become involved in the system, got themselves into trouble by trying to survive. However, these efforts were overlooked and they were penalized because of their actions instead of being protected from future harm. The justice system is harder on juvenile female offender than juvenile adult offenders.
More times than not, when young males get caught up in the juvenile justice system it is due to lack of self-control. Our youth, both male and female, are being exposed to way too much at such an early age. So many fathers are absent from their children’s lives these days, which causes moms to have to work twice as hard and be home for their kids twice as less as they should. It is a big snowball effect and at the end of the day, the only people really suffering from it is our youth. When young girls grow up without their fathers they begin looking for love in all the wrong places. When young men grow up without their fathers, they have no role model and begin looking on the outside for one. A lot of times this ends up being a bad thing because they turn to the streets for mentors, or their favorite rapper or actor. People who they do not personally know and only know what they see on TV or hear on the radio.
We must start by listening to our youth and trying to help them solve their problems instead of leaving them to fend for themselves. Being an adolescent is hard enough within itself. If you throw family dysfunction or abuse into that mixture, it makes it that much harder on our children. Too often do we minimize the concerns that our children have and the problems they face. This often leads our youth to taking matters into their own hands. We need to become more involved with our youth and our communities need to get back to the way we use to be as far as being family oriented. Too many youth are raising themselves and don’t know where to turn or who to turn to.
As stated previously, a high percentage of adult offenders have juvenile records. It is almost seems as though once one of our youth gets in trouble with the law, more than likely they will be repeat offenders. At that point it is easier for the youth to give up then work to climb out of a hole, (our system) which seems designed to keep you down. We must work to keep our youth away from this cycle because one they become stuck in it, they will more than likely remain in it.
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