Practical Ways of Reducing Juvenile Crime
The date is May 26, 2000 in Palm Beach County in the state of Florida where Nathaniel Brazill walks into school, pulls out a .25 caliber handgun, shoots, and kills his teacher Barry Grunow in cold blood. He is tried as an adult by the Palm Beach County and found guilty of second degree murder. He gets twenty eight years in an adult prison facility and five more years of probation after he leaves prison. Many people still wonder whether the sentence was appropriate for 13 year old Brazill. Would it have helped to get specific details about his young life before sentencing him? He deserved to be punished for his crime but an analysis of his criminal history, if there was one, his motives for the murder, his neighborhood, or even his family situation would have helped considerably to avert future juvenile crimes of that nature. The shift towards trying juvenile cases as adults indicates that the juvenile system has ceased to work as it should and therefore a more practical approach to reducing juvenile crime is needed in our legal and justice systems.
Practical Ways of Reducing Juvenile Crime
By definition, juvenile crime is any act against the law that is perpetrated by individuals who are below what is referred to as age of majority. These young offenders are usually placed in several facilities like detention centers for minors, correctional camps owned and run by the government, or like in Brazill’s case, in adult penitentiaries. The place a juvenile offender is incarcerated at is determined by the seriousness of the crime committed. They can even be placed under the custody of a parent or guardian when they have committed minor offenses.
In an effort to improve the juvenile justice system, we need to first and foremost consider that these offenders are our own younger siblings or children gone astray. In order to be able to deal with troubled teenagers or adolescents effectively we have to first learn how to treat juvenile delinquents fairly and with their best interests in mind. We need to shape policies used to fight juvenile crime and violence in the ways that are concurrent with the rehabilitation of the young offenders.
There has been an emphasis currently on implementing a more punitive approach to juvenile crime. It has become the more popular approach today in line with our societal values like public safety, retribution on behalf of crime victims, and the notion that every individual’s actions should carry appropriate consequences. Federal legislation is also in support of the punitive approach. In showing juveniles the consequences of their actions, advocates of the punitive approach maintain that harsher punishments and treating juvenile offenders as adults will reduce crime. There are advantages and disadvantages in this approach. It is true that a punitive approach offers retribution to the victims of juvenile but it does not help the offender. Harsh punishment works only by the criminal behavior but does not change it. It does not solve the problem of finding ways to reduce juvenile crime but keeps the offender locked up until the next opportunity to commit crimes presents itself. A more effective approach would be one aimed at rehabilitation. Rehabilitation aims at changing the behavior of the offender and turning him or her into a useful member of the society.
The juvenile court was founded on the principles of rehabilitation and continues to apply rehabilitative methods in its operations. It supports the assertion that juveniles need to be rehabilitated besides being punished for their crimes. This is because it is a moral obligation of the society to make young offenders useful members of the society. Unlike adults children hardly understand the difference between right and wrong and are at times incapable of fully assessing the consequences of their actions before committing crimes. They probably have a hopeless or negative outlook on life and are therefore less culpable for their actions than adults.
Children are also more agreeable to rehabilitative treatment than adults. This amenability makes the rehabilitative approach more preferable than the use of harsh punishments in reduction of juvenile crime. Stakeholders in the juvenile justice system both at the national and state levels should work towards incorporating detentions and rehabilitation into the system to rid it of hopelessness and despair that has come to characterize it.
In conclusion, reduction of juvenile crime should not simply concentrate on punishing offenders but on preventing children from adopting criminal mentalities. The juvenile system needs to first adopt a localized approach. This means less federal involvement and increased community participation in the rehabilitation process. Localization would be more effective in reducing juvenile crime as it would complement prevention measures with early intervention. Another more effective approach to reducing juvenile crime would be the preventive approach that would address the problem from outside the court. The solution lies in preventing the crime before it occurs. This approach emphasizes on intervening in the lives of adolescents and other children who are at risk of committing juvenile crimes.