Essay Example on Gang Violence and Its Effect on Juvenile Delinquents

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Juvenile delinquency is also called juvenile offending where minors engage in illegal behavior. The minors are below the statutory age of majority, and various legal systems have specific measures to deal with juveniles. Such includes juvenile courts and juvenile detention centers. In the United States, a juvenile delinquent is any individual below 18 years of age who commits an act that would have been otherwise charged as a crime for an adult. However, in some states such as Texas, New Hampshire, North Carolina and New York consider juvenile delinquent to be younger than 17 years of age. In some instances according to the type and severity of the offense committed, people under 18 may be charged and treated as adults. Juvenile crimes range from violent crimes especially among gangs, property crimes and status offenses such as underage smoking. Juvenile delinquency is in some cases considered normative adolescent behavior because most offenders commit non-violent crimes during their adolescence by having antisocial behavior.

Currently, there is an increasing independence of adolescents from the family in various societies. For this reason, the adolescents have been increasingly relying on other adolescents (Matsueda & Heimer, 1987). This has been a problem for other adolescents cannot take the role of parenting as socializing agents as in most cases they have little or no investment in the outcome and are less likely to recognize the deviant behavior. Another factor is that most adolescent during their teenage years gravitates toward the influence of their peers. Both girls and boys would eventually move to the direction of their peers which in most cases involve delinquency and crime.

When children accompany their peers, they learn to exploit their community in crimes as a gradual learning. Due to poor socialization, they do not feel any responsibility or obligation for their community as it failed them. Although both boys and girls can be involved in this delinquent behavior, boys are a higher tendency to be involved with delinquent companions, which insulated them from the weakening influence of their families (Knoester & Haynie, 2005). When there is a continued poor supervision, control and monitoring from parents, the children experience invariably escalating conflict at home (Matsueda & Heimer, 1987). The poor relationship characterized by conflict and related family problems cause these children to deepen their affiliation with delinquent groups who are likely to welcome with a place to belong. In these groups or gangs, the children continue their violent, hostile and aggressive behavior which repels normal, non-aggressive character. It is in these groups that they become more familiar and at ease with their delinquent peers. A gang is any durable, street oriented youth group which involves in illegal activities (Weerman et al., 2009).

Juvenile delinquency causes, extent and correlation may be associated with different perspectives and whose difference relates to the academic discipline in which the theorist was developed. These disciplines include sociology, psychology, and economists who have differing assumptions concerning humans and human behavior. Their perspective is different due to conceptualization on what causes juvenile delinquency.

According to Bandura (1986, 1999) on social cognitive theory individuals desist from transgressive behavior because of the internalized societys standards of conduct. For this agency reason, the acts relating to aggressive or violent behavior risk are from external sanctions such as punishment, rejection, and condemnation, as well as internal moral self-sanctions which encourage acting against their beliefs such as the feelings of guilt and shame. This in most cases affects adolescent children. Bandura proposed the individual construction of rationalizations and justification in avoidance of self-censured which violates moral standards of violence, crime, aggression, and delinquency through a process called moral disengagement. Juvenile delinquency may be associated with moral justification, euphemistic labeling, and advantageous comparison, mechanisms that serve to restructure harmful acts so that they appear less damaging cognitively. Most children are introduced to dehumanization, distortion of consequences, and the attribution of blame mechanisms serve by the gangs to reduce or eliminate the distress one perceives to be causing a victim. They morally disengage so as to influence various forms of antisocial conduct both directly and by reducing pro-social behavior and guilt, and by promoting aggression (Bandura, 1999, 2002).

According to Bandura (1991) on psychosocial factors studies, children learn the moral standards of their environments by observing interactions around them and by interacting with others. Eventually, if violence is the most common factor in their environments such as gang fights or parental physical fighting, they may end up learning this. They understand that it is not against moral standards to use violence as a means to obtain goals, solve a problem or to defend themselves. Violence becomes a positive aspect of their lives (Bandura, 1999).

Formal and informal attempts to solve the problem of gangs

In 2006 in America, the Federal Bureau of Investigation found that crime incidents had increased by 1.3 percent from 2005. After some studies, it was found that most of the crimes were committed by gangs which showed that the gang crime had started to reassert itself as a major problem. Gang violence included assaults, drive-by shootings, homicides, and brutal home-invasion robberies and posed as the largest, single, personal threats to public safety in this state. The prevalence of gangs and the crimes they committed demonstrated serious contemporary issues.

One of the main attempt to solve the problem was established in through gang suppression funding for local agencies. The cost of crime committed by gangs was found to be very high regarding economic costs associated with medical costs, sabotage costs, prosecution, law enforcement, education, narcotic prevention among others. To address the problem of gangs, the family or home has been used as the primary solution where parents are educated on how to spot signs of gang association and how to associate with their children to make gangs less glamorous. Parenting skills help parent to keep children out of troubles (Finkelhor, Ormrod, Turner & Hamby, 2005). Schools are active in preventing children from gangs. Some programs have been introduced to identify gang members, resolve a potential conflict among gang members, remove graffiti, and provide parents with information about gangs. Some schools also have strict rules that help to keep children from engaging in gangs behavior while in school. Some curricula are also introduced in school in partnership with other relevant institutions to steer children away from delinquent behavior. Schools also work with law enforcement to address some cases of crimes in schools to decrease truancy and reduce the risk of gang involvement.

The communities have also joined hand with the police to express their intolerance to drugs and crime which is associated with gangs. Some state funding programs working on gang preventions have been adopted by different communities in America to suppress gang related links. Under the office of criminal justice planning, funds have been allocated throughout the state to prevent gangs and drugs through planning and coordination of task forces. Government enforcement through police and law enforcement agencies have been used to deter street gang activity. Gang units have also been formed to specifically counter this problem which is responsible for prosecution of gang members

Legislative response to gangs violence and juvenile delinquent

As a result of public safety concerns posed by criminal gangs, the congress has been expanding the national government's role in fighting crime from the traditional realm of state and local governments. Members of Congress have also been advocating on expanding the existing national government programs that are aimed at addressing gang crime. The federal government has a role in reducing gang-related crime.

Various proposals to address gang violence on the federal level are currently have been put before the Congress. Some of these have been the Gang Abatement and Prevention Act of 2007, and the Fighting Gangs and Empowering Youth Act of 2007 (Schwartz, 2008). All these legislative remedies have been proposed to present a variety of methods to address the problems. Some of those that have been passed before have created new federal crimes to handing out large chunks of money for police salaries and creating programs to prevent gang recruitment. Others are termed to expansively define gang crime to counter the ever-growing list of federal crimes and give police powers of the states.

The legislative body of Congress has seen the heavy weight on gang activity which is not easy to understand and needs a complex and effective solution. The Congress has also established special facilities for those convicted of engaging in gang crimes. The facilities provide counseling services and economic solution for the convicts so as to turn around their delinquency. Other legislative interventions by Congress have introduced expansion of school programs (SOS) in neighborhoods with high rates of juvenile crime, expansion of parent training programs, increase of programs available to at-risk children to mentor them and increase the ability of law enforcement to detect and prevent the formation of juvenile gangs while enabling law enforcement officers to function as truancy officers (Menard, 2002).

Societal values and the social and economic conditions framing the problem of gangs and juvenile delinquent

There are different factors that frame the problem of gangs and juvenile delinquent. However, they are determined by different issues related to societal value and social and economic problems. Some children are attracted to gangs as it is where they find a sense of family love, friendship, and camaraderie which they fail to get from school or home. Some find that they experience a kind of success in gangs; whereas, they experience failure at school and in the home (Patterson & Dishion, 1985). This success may be in terms of making the social or economic influence on others. Some children do not have developed skills to constructively express feelings of anger and rage and for this reason that express them through violent behavior. In some neighborhoods, gangs and violent behavior is the only means of survival and joining a neighborhood gang is a source of safety as they believe that gangs give them protection.

Some join gangs as a means to get money and respect as in some cases, Gangs can provide lucrative economic opportunities, status, and prestige especially for youths that do not believe they have employment opportunities, or who have no job skills (Margolin & Gordis, 2004). As some children grow up in families where parents and relatives are active gang members and joining a gang is part of family tradition. In the Hispanic neighborhoods, for instance, gangs have been an integral component of the barrio for generations. These issues are some contributing factors of gang involvement.


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