The problem of juvenile offenders and teenagers being involved in criminal activity is one that the schools, police and the judicial system are working together to solve. The juvenile justice system was set up by the government so that people can find a way to change the mindset and help with the rehabilitation of children who commit crimes. The plan is to change the way they act so that they can stop committing crimes and instead become productive people for society.
The Juvenile Justice system is working in some ways. In America the rate of juveniles and children committing crimes and going to jail dropped by 53% between the year 2003 and 2015 (Gass). It is good news to know that less children are being involved in criminal activity that can get them jailed and ruin their lives. But still there is a major problem and that is racial profiling of juveniles. There is a drop in children being arrested but among the children who are arrested for criminal activity the biggest racial group is the African Americans. In America, Black children are more likely to be arrested for criminal activity than white children. Also black children are 18 times more likely to be tried in a court as an adult than white children (Williams). The law enforcement officers who make these arrests might deny that they are outside and targeting black children to be arrested. But when you look at many statistics you can know that this is not the truth. One reason is that there are always more police officers in neighborhoods where the people are poor and there is low income housing. These are the neighborhoods where the people will mostly be African Americans or Hispanic Americans. More crime is reported in these poor neighborhoods. So because of this the police have already a bigger chance of arresting children who belong to African American or Hispanic families. In neighborhoods where people have more money and there are less police even if a crime like drug possession or theft is committed there’s a smaller chance of the crime being noticed by police because there is a smaller police presence. So that means white children will have more chances of not being seen and getting away with criminal activity than blacks and Latino American children.
This has a big effect on how police officers act and even think. The University of California and the American National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress disorder did a study in 2014 to see how police officers look at the different peoples in America. The study shows that police feel that black children are more likely to become criminals than white children and that police see black children as less innocent then the white children (Journal of Personality and Social Psychology). This is the mentality many police officers have because they are mostly told to work in areas where poor communities are located. There are less police officers in residential areas where the majority of the population is white.
So because of this, police officers who catch children doing things like stealing or selling drugs will racially profile the child and make a decision based on the child’s race. Maybe for many white children who are seen as more innocent than black children they will get a phone call to their parents. The mother or father will come pick up the child and there will only be a warning. The black child will be arrested and sent to the juvenile center and have a record.
The juvenile centers also have many problems. The juvenile center is supposed to be for helping in rehabilitation. The center is for helping the child change to a good path in life and never commit crimes again. But in America, there is a lot of violence in many juvenile centers. The children who are sent to juvenile centers are going to be exposed to a lot of violence and traumatizing experiences. There was a study done by the Anna E. Casey Foundation. It showed that there was a bigger chance of a child committing crimes as an adult and going to real jail if the child was sent to a juvenile center (Finkel). This is because of the negative impact the violence and bad experience can have on a child. So this means that because of the way the police do racial profiling and because they are always in low income areas of America, the police are preparing more black children to become criminals as adults.
The juvenile justice system needs to be worked on by the government. The idea is to stop children from doing serious crimes. But sometimes the children are made to become a criminal by the environment of the juvenile center. So what needs to happen is a change in police mentality. The racial profiling of children by the police officers in America is making the job very difficult. Police need to enter communities and communicate better. It is because of the poor communication by police and their attitude. They are in neighborhoods to protect all the citizens. But I think some police feel like they are on a mission to search for people to arrest like it was a trip of hunting. This will make people feel as if they are the enemy of the police. That is already how most African Americans in America feel today about the police. So the juvenile center needs to be reformed. It can be a very dangerous place for a child. A 12-year-old who stole something shouldn’t be in the same place as a 17-year-old who murdered someone. Right now the juvenile center is a place where every child with a problem is thrown into like a big waste basket. Some problems are more serious and need to be examined differently. The child who committed a nonviolent crime shouldn’t be put in the same room as violent children. This will risk making more children violent.
But that’s not all. The other thing that needs reform is the way police officers think. Because of the statistics that show that more black children go the juvenile centers than any other race, the police think that blacks and other children from minorities have bigger chances of becoming criminals. As I explained earlier this is not true. It is poverty and the areas a child grows up in that makes one think of crime. Also the influence and choice of friends. But a child won’t have more of a criminal mind than another because of the child race. That is ignorance that we need to fight. Police need to discuss this problem and police have to change the way they give training so that this mentality will end. If the police and the residents work together there will be peace and understanding in the community. There will be less crime. Police shouldn’t only be somewhere to punish people. On almost all police cars it is written that they are there to serve and protect. The police should serve by discussing and meeting with the parents, teachers and leaders of the community. They should also meet with people of all groups including white, black and other race groups so that nobody feels isolated.
The idea of a juvenile justice system is a very good idea. Children should not be in court with adults and children should not be facing the same sentences when they are still developing and not yet with an adult mind. The idea might be good but unless the system is fixed there can be big problems that might divide Americans and create hate and bad feeling between the police and a big part of the population. Racial profiling of children by police is very harmful and something needs to be done. If not the juvenile justice system might be more harmful than useful for the children of America.
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