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Essay on Juvenile Justice

The question of how justice is served to juveniles has long been a controversial one

This is partly because there are people who think children should stand trial for crimes in the same manner as adults because the harm done is often the same, and at times, the outcome is more serious. At the present time, virtually every country has laws that are especially designed to punish juvenile offenders, and these are usually not very harsh. Equalizing the law, a country would be able to sentence children to life imprisonment or even the death penalty. The wisdom of this is questionable, however, since the age range of juvenile offenders is usually 10 to 18. On almost every occasion, children of this age have not usually had the opportunity to behave or act differently since they are inexperienced and many were never shown good example.

A lot of these children often come from low-income backgrounds with parents who are addicted to drugs, abuse alcohol, or suffer some form of mental illness. Such children see their parents’ and older siblings’ behavior and they copy this when they reach their teenage years, often behaving in a similar way. For example, where parents were in the habit of stealing things they needed instead of trying to improve their earning potential, the child would be inclined to do likewise. Where a child sees violent and/or aggressive behavior towards females in their family, they are also likely to behave in a bullying manner towards females in their own peer group. Additionally, many tend to inherit alcohol or drug addiction habits, and in a withdrawn state, a person can be driven to do terrible things to acquire alcohol or drugs.

Another influential aspect is moral guidance. Where parents do not teach their children right from wrong, as a teenager the child may not even know they are involved in criminal activity until they face the consequences.

There are some teenagers who commit crimes after being bullied at school or are rape victims

Their psychological state is not stable and they are unable to cope with pressure, so they may take discretionary revenge. Other teenagers experience hormonal problems that make their personalities aggressive and difficult to control. For instance, some mental instabilities like schizophrenia can begin to show at the onset of puberty. In such cases, the children concerned cannot be deemed responsible for how they act. Indeed, their aggression can worsen upon imprisonment. The cooling off experience of years in a prison does not usually disappear without some trace. Moreover, it is easy to influence children. So, should they get into wrong company, it is likely they will behave in a like manner so as not to lose peer respect. Therefore, many behavioral patterns are related to a child’s background.

Those with the most responsibility for all this are parents, guardians and teachers for not noticing the initial danger signals. 

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It would be terrible and not at all fair to punish children who were unaware of their actions

Furthermore, many instances are often preventable if only the child’s parents paid more attention to their children’s behavior and any changes in their personalities. A healthy family environment is the most vital element for developing a person’s body, mind and soul. Providing relationships of trust, feelings of support, knowing you will always get any necessary help, and promoting the idea you will always be accepted for yourself are key ingredients to healthy human development. Sadly, these ingredients are often lacking in the frantic nature of the modern world.   

So, rather than punishing teenagers who have not yet grown up for various crimes, it would be much better to make every effort to prevent their actions in the first place.

Already, a number of programs have been implemented but these still need to be used to better effect to prevent antisocial behavior in children and teenagers. One such program involves mentoring where participants work in pairs or groups. The idea is that older, more experienced and more successful participants can influence the others in a positive way.  

The school interventions program is another such initiative. This involves a series of special classes where conflict resolution, eliminating aggression from relationships by understanding your own needs and the needs of those around you, and controlling different types of cognitive and emotional social behavior are taught.     

Another series of programs called Afterschool Recreation are attractive to young people and are pleasant because they involve visits to places of cultural and historical interest, game playing, park walks, and picnicking in the open. The aim here is to help participants become more friendly and open.   

There are some impressive results from these programs, which indicate that numerous problems can be prevented if correct and timely action is taken. Children differ from adults – who often understand the consequences of their actions – in that they are influenced by emotions and the family environment. Therefore, it is unfair to try people from different backgrounds and environments in an equal manner.

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