Juvenile Crime Children and crime, these two words would seem to be at odds with each other. Not many parents want to think that their child(ren) could do wrong period, let alone commit a serious or heinous crime. Even if someone thinks about child crime, it is hard to separate the cinematic portrayal of cute little pick-pockets from the truth. Juvenile crime is a serious problem. In 2009 there were 262 arrests for violent crime offenses for every 100,000 youth ages 10-17 and eight percent of homicides in the US involved juveniles ("Crimesolutions.gov", 2013). Case in point, in 2001 a 13 year old boy was convicted of kidnapping then brutally beating and raping a 43-year old women (Schmalleger, Chapter 15, 2011). The problem for our legal system is that not all juveniles commit such atrocious crimes. There are plenty of youths who commit minor crimes like skipping school, minor vandalism, or minor theft. While these crimes are still serious, they do not necessarily warrant treating juveniles as adults.
Before examining the complexities of today’s court issues, lets exam juvenile criminal history. Throughout history, things were not like they are today in regards to juvenile crime. Currently, when a youth commits a crime there could either be tried as a juvenile or as an adult. This was not the case in distant past. In fact, all youths were tried same as adults throughout history. There are even some recorded cases of children being hung or burned at the stake (Schmalleger, Chapter 15, 2011). The courts made no distinction between children and adults. This all changed because of the influence that Christianity had on society during the middle ages. Christianity held that children did not have the maturity to fully understand responsibility of their actions. Because of this, England began separating criminals into three categories. The first of these were children under the age of seven; English law did not hold these children responsible for their crimes. The second category is of two parts and consisted of youths aged seven through fourteen. This group was afforded special treatment and only tried as adults if it was deemed that they fully understood the gravity of their actions (Schmalleger, Chapter 15, 2011). Last of all were people age fourteen and up, since fourteen was the legal age to marry it was also the age of “adulthood”. There was now a distinction between criminality and delinquency. As defined by our textbook, delinquency is “juvenile actions or conduct in violation of criminal law, juvenile status offenses, and other juvenile misbehavior” (Schmalleger, 2011, p.543). This is the bases of the system we use in America today.
With regards to juvenile crime, there are many variables to examine. One cannot simply point to one specific thing and say “that right there is the sole cause”. The "Juvenile Crime" (n.d.) website lists at least five factors that contribute to juvenile crime: failure in school, family problems, substance abuse, pattern behaviors/conduct problems, and gang membership/gun ownership. Not all youths who have some of these factors are automatically going to be career criminals. In fact, in many cases, there are little to no issues after the first offense. At any rate, there are numerous programs out there to help “at risk” youths. From community outreach centers and groups like Big Bothers to mental and emotional guidance from professionals, there are ways to lower/fight crime amongst youths. According to "Juvenile Crime" (n.d.), “it is never too early to try to prevent offending, it is also never too late to intervene and attempt to reduce the risk of recidivism for serious offending”. On the subject of recidivism, or the relapse of criminal behavior, are grounds for improvement. Among juveniles who have been arrested, 49 percent are rearrested within a year and 66 percent within two years (Harris, Lockwood, &