Juvenile Offenders Make Repeat Offenders as Adults - Paper Example

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Vanderbilt University
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There has been a debate going on for a long time about juvenile justice. The argument is whether or not young offenders become even worse criminals due to their experiences with the justice system. Also, experts wonder whether these offenders are somewhat different from individuals who get their first criminal conviction as grownups. It seems there is a lot of evidence that people who are convicted early in life become heavily in criminal activities as adults. Researchers from Duke University in New Zealand conducted a study on the topic by using data of about 1,000 citizens of the country from birth until the age of about 38. They looked at patterns that would set young offenders apart from adult-onset criminals.

Of the 931 participants who took part in the study, 138 males started engaging in criminal activities as juveniles. The group of adult onset offenders was made up of 66 males. In fact, 42% of the males across the whole cohort had some kind of conviction ranging from DUI and shoplifting to assaults and property crimes. According to Morgan, Salomon, Plotkin & Cohen (2014), with this source of data, the researchers were able examine childhood history and compare it with grown up behavior. The study found out while those in the adult-onset group had a history of anti-social behavior during childhood, they committed relatively fewer criminal acts. The researchers also examined a number of possible reasons for adult-onset criminality. While the group committed more criminal acts than individuals who have never gotten a conviction, they did fewer crimes than those who had been trouble during childhood.

Contrary to a common notion, study participants in the group of adult-onset offenders were not from substantially wealthier socioeconomic backgrounds. Also, they were not any more intelligent than those who committed crimes at an earlier age. They were more likely to suffer from bipolar disorder or schizophrenia and be alcoholics when compared to non-offenders, although no more likely to be jobless. According to the researchers, their findings deduced that the court system does not play a major role in the trajectory of juvenile offenders. The subjects who got into trouble as juveniles admitted that they were committing more and worse criminal acts at a young age even before they got convicted. The study recommends that more focus should be directed towards juvenile offenders while first-time adult offenders are treated more leniently. This is because a majority of the criminal population first commits criminal acts while they are adolescents (Thompson & Bynum, 2016).

When male youngsters are taken to juvenile delinquency centers, they are more likely to be convicted and incarcerated when they become adults. This is when compared to similarly troubled children who do not get into trouble with the law early in life. The system creates a culture of defiance in the detention centers setting whereby the young offenders learn additional crime tricks that make then convicted later as adults. For those who have experienced the juvenile justice system, the chances of adult judicial interventions rise significantly. The more intense the punishment and correctional mechanisms are applied in the system, the greater the negative impact. Most nations allocate a substantial amount of resources to fund institutions and programs that bring together young offenders in order to rehabilitate them. A problem occurs in that delinquent behavior is communicable, particularly among adolescents. Bringing together misbehaving adolescents induces a culture of defiance that in turn increases the odds of them continuing to engage in criminal acts.

Scholars and ordinary citizens are always debating as to what spurs young people to engage in criminal activities. While most states stipulate 18 years as the legal age of transition from childhood to adulthood, questions arise as to whether the brain is completely mature then. Some scholars have looked at the differences between juveniles who continue committing crimes and those who dont, and also examined early adult-onset criminal acts. The prevalence of young people engaging in criminal activities tends to rise from late childhood, peak during the teenage years, and then gradually go down in the early 20s. However, the trend involving violence tends to be more prominent than that for misdemeanors such as property crimes. Also, young males particularly from minority communities raised up in poor neighborhoods tend to engage in more criminal activities.

Continuity of committing criminal acts from the juvenile into adult years is higher for violent offenders, chronic delinquents, and individuals who begin offending at an early age. According to studies, between 52% and 57% of juvenile delinquents continue committing crimes up to the age of 25 years. That number drops significantly as they grow older past that age although there are individual differences evident from person to person. Children who begin offending before the age of 12 years are more likely to continue committing criminal acts when they become young adults. All in all, not all types of offenses have the same persistence. Possession of weapons and drug dealing are the ones most likely to persist into early adulthood, while membership of gangs has a much shorter duration. Use of drugs such as marijuana has the longest duration; it lasts several times longer than violence and theft. The average age when juveniles stop offending is highest for drug trafficking, occurring at around 21 years. Minor offenses like vandalism and shoplifting usually cease before the age of 18.

The frequency of committing criminal acts among juveniles is higher for offences that do not involve violence than violent crimes. Usually, the frequency peaks around the ages of between 17 and 19, and remains stable as time goes by only for a small number of individuals. Studies show that between 40% and 60% of juvenile delinquents stop offending by the time they reach early adulthood. For those who continue, the transition from adolescence to adulthood is marked by rising severity of crimes committed as well as an increase in use of violence. A majority of the violent acts are directed towards victims who are about the same age as the perpetrator, with the period of between 16 and 24 years being a high-risk age for violent victimization. Many youngsters who commit crimes between the ages of 18 and 20, which introduces them to the adult justice system, would most likely discontinue naturally within a few. Going through the juvenile justice system is only likely to make them worse as opposed to reforming them. Somewhere from 10% up to 30% of offenders begin committing criminal acts during early adulthood. Developmental studies carried out on late adolescence and early adulthood do not support the idea that a natural break occurs in the prevalence of offenders when someone turns 18.

The mean age of onset occurs earliest for membership of gangs followed by marijuana smoking, drug dealing, possession of arms, and hard drug use. Drug dealing may not be that common, drug use is quite prevalent among young offenders. Criminals are known to consume higher amounts of drugs, and drug users report higher rates of committing criminal acts when compared to non-users. Of all crime activities, illegal possession of firearms and drug dealing has the highest persistence from teenage years to adulthood. Becoming a member of a gang increases the rate of committing crimes although gang involvement is often transitory. According to one study, most young people who become members of gangs do so at a rather young age; typically between the ages of 11 and 16. In contrast, a majority of murders are single events committed by individuals aged between 19 and 24 years. On the other hand, gang-related killings mainly take place during adolescence. These studies examined at protecting and risk factors. Irrefutable proof exists to show males having a stable source of income and getting married prevents them from engaging in criminal activities. Also, taking part in unstructured activities with peer group members is linked to persistence. The limited research on adult-onset offending does not offer much information on why some individuals who were not delinquents as youngsters become offenders as adults. All in all, there is a study that found out certain characteristics are linked to adult-onset offending. They include anxiousness, nervousness, social inhibition and social isolation.

There have been attempts to reform the juvenile justice system in such a way that it does not make offenders worse once they become adults. However, not much success has been achieved. The l980s and 1990s saw the launch of the so-called tough-on-crime prosecutorial modifications, with prosecutors looking at the merits of smart-on-crime reforms for juvenile justice. The reforms have significantly reduced the number of young people in the adult justice system, while also educating public defenders, prosecutors and judges on the challenges facing juvenile offenders. In the United States in 2007, there was an estimated quarter of million youths were prosecuted as grown-ups. Most of them ended up in adult court since their respective states had an age of criminal responsibility less than 18 years. Since that time, several states have passed pieces of legislation to increase that age to 18 years. After the legislations were passed by the first five states, the number of juveniles prosecuted as grownups reduced by almost half, even while crime by youth fell. In recent times, several additional states have increased the age to that will minimize the number of young people automatically prosecuted as gown ups by half.

States have made other reforms in addition to increasing the age of criminal responsibility. For instance, they have removed young people from adult prisons and jails, and restricted the links of transfer of offenders from juvenile to adult systems. They have also brought back judicial restriction by doing away with or restricting the role played by prosecutors in transferring juveniles to the adult system. States that have set up developmentally apt and evidence-based juvenile justice systems have witnessed their youth crime rates, confinement, and budgets fall; sometimes even faster than the national average. All in all, states have not instituted those reforms blindly. The US Supreme Court ruled that juveniles are quite different from adults, and that is something that should be taken into consideration. Research carried out in various parts of the country has consistently showed that young people prosecuted as grownups are more likely to commit even worse crimes than those who remain in the juvenile justice system. Whats more, they recidivate much faster, and through taking part in more serious criminal acts.

An effective juvenile justice system should not be a reflection of the tough-on-crime legislations of the 1980s. Instead, it should be research-based reforms that have led to almost seventy new laws in dozens of states. These legislations has been passed by bipartite state legislatures, given the go ahead by law enforcement, and signed into law by governors from both major parties. All in all, as much as these newly established reforms are significant, the juvenile justice system still has a long way to go. Putting in place a brilliant juvenile justice system requires the continued use of evidence and research to improve outcomes for young people. It means remembering the juveniles in Louisiana and Texas who took their own lives while being held in adult prisons. It means doing away with cases such as the one involving a ten-year-old child who was charged as a grown up in Penn...

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