Juvenile offenders also referred to as juvenile delinquents are young people below the age of 18 who are arrested for various crimes or offenses ranging from theft and vandalism to rape and murder. This is a very unstable world and times we are living in today. There is conflict, security threats, uncertainty and neglect of humanity everywhere. Children who grow up in this chaotic world, undergo the transition from childhood to adulthood tending to become increasingly violent and exhibit delinquent behavior. In the United States, children who show delinquent behavior are punished in a Youth Detention Center.
There may be many causes of delinquency among young children and adolescents. Among these primarily is the fact that opportunities for employment and education are not evenly distributed for all. Other reasons include children who fall into bad company and develop a drug abuse problem, broken families or parentless children, sexual abuse, cruelty and parents who have an alcohol abuse problem. Sometimes neglect manifests itself in rebellious behavior in children. For example children whose parents work long hours or are preoccupied with other family members tend to commit crimes after their school hours. The friendships a child develops inside or outside the school also play a significant role in their behavior. It can have a direct impact on them navigating successfully through to adulthood and becoming a college graduate or developing a substance abuse problem and eventually dropping out of school.
It has been observed that 15-20% young people exhibit delinquent behavior due to mental illness. If we use a broader definition, this figure goes up to 90%! In The United States, demographics shows that the number of juvenile offenders is rising every year. For example, in 2007, there were approximately 72 million young offenders. This figure rose up to 75 million in the year 2013. This rate is forecasted to keep on increasing till the year 2015 at minimum. The Federal Interagency of Child and Family Statistics have predicted that by the year 2050, the population of delinquents might go up to approximately 102 million! The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention also reported in the year 2009 that out of all juvenile offenders in The United States, 57% were White, 10% were black, 1% American Indian, 5% were Asian, and 22% of them belonged to the Hispanic community.
Since many children who are arrested for delinquent behavior have suffered psychological or physical abuse, they have learning disabilities, anger issues and fall behind in their studies. As a result, these children, who are already lagging in their education, have to sit through the deplorable outdated Education system of the Detention Centers. This results in them not being able to make a successful transition out and gives rise to recidivism. Research has shown a clear link between education and juvenile delinquency. Statistics shows us that if we compare academic performances of students and the probability of their turning into an offender, then 35% children who perform badly in studies are bound to become offenders compared to 20% children who have a good academic record.
Similarly, a study carried out by the Criminal Justice Policy Council reported the findings that 37% of the children and adolescents who had been held for crimes were less likely to return to prison if they only learned to read during their time in a Juvenile Correction Center.About 2600 juvenile justice facilities report that they provide classes and basic education services for the offenders. However, in many of these centers, the educational programs are low grade and insufficient for the juvenile delinquents. For starters, there is lack of timely and correct analysis and assessment of the needs students have when they enter the system. Research showed that about 16% students only have the basic reading and writing skills of a fourth-grade student. There is little or no coordination among different age groups of students or different skills level students and their learning potential with the teacher’s lessons. Quite a few of the teaching methods are antiquated, inappropriate, use outdated material and little or no technology is used. There is an overall dearth of resources.
Every morning the sun rises over these juvenile justice centers, there are about 70,000 students who come to take classes and learn. Almost 85 percent of these students are males. There may be a number of reasons for that. Males are generally more exposed to society and have a higher tendency to be aggressive. Almost 70% of those people turn out to be African American or Hispanic. However, due to poor teaching quality, these systems only do more harm than good and at the end, only 25% students have a progress good enough to enable them to enter a public school and manage to keep up with peers.
Federal reports show that out of all the students in juvenile justice facilities, only 15% improved their reading skills while in custody. Out of the long term students, only 26% improved their reading and writing skills. Only 2% are accepted into a program at any college. Almost 70% people who are tested are found to have some sort of learning disability. Lesser than 25% have received special guidance or services for their disability. The other 45% have not been catered to. The irony in all this is that Justice Systems are more expensive to maintain than keeping teenagers in a normal school where they not only receive quality education, they also have more chances of progression and avoid mental problems that come along with living in incarceration.
The best way of preventing juvenile delinquency is to keep a strict watch and correct the problem at root level. Causes of crimes among teenagers need to be looked into and analyzed. Some of these causes like improving the home environment or lessening poverty are hard to eliminate but others like lack of education and falling into bad company can easily be rectified. After all, it is important to remember that these are still children, and they deserve all the perks that come with childhood. Every child deserves a happy home, security, ample opportunity for growth and progress. By providing affordable quality education, children can be saved from ruining their future.