Preventing Juvenile Delinquency in Impoverished Cities

Juvenile delinquency is a very broad term that is often used to refer to the juveniles who have committed criminal activities. The definition that is given to the juveniles is individuals who have not reached the majority age or adulthood. The age of majority or simply adulthood is defined by the judicial system and in some cases pre-determined by the law, particularly for the minor criminal activities. The major or serious crimes could force the courts to prosecute the criminals as adults and this could lead to a lifetime in prison. The definition of delinquency could be the commission of activities that are considered by the states as crimes; however on the other hand delinquent could mean abandoned. Therefore, juvenile delinquency could be covering several things from the small crimes to the serious crimes such as a felony, murder as well as theft (Brown & Alarid 19).

The juvenile delinquency can be explained using social learning theory. Social learning theory is a behavior based theory, which can be applied in criminology. Social learning theory postulates that, aggression and criminal behaviors is learned through a process of behavior modeling. Bandura believed that aggressive tendencies are not hereditary, but learned based on three principles. He argued that, people, mostly children, learn aggressive tendencies from observing others. This observation can be either personal observation, or through observing the media, and environment. Bandura stated that, many people have a notion that, aggression will create reinforcements. These reinforcements can result in tension reduction, financial rewards, or approval of others, which will lead to an improved self esteem (Gambrill 50). However, this paper will present a program on preventing juvenile delinquency in impoverished cities.

Preventing Juvenile Delinquency in Impoverished Cities

In early 2011 the FBI reported a decrease of 23.5% for juvenile arrests based on total arrests made in 2001 versus 2010 (FBI.gov).  In fact, a simple Google search on juvenile crime over the past couple of years looks pretty good on paper and would have us believing that the many programs implemented over the past ten years have finally taken hold and is having a positive effect on our youth.   We should be relieved that in 2010 only 184,154 arrests were made for theft and crimes related to drug abuse are down from 123,686 to 107,164 (United States Federal Bureau of Investigations 12).  Cumulatively a little over a million people were arrested in 2010 for varying offenses.  Keep in mind these numbers are related to the population of 18 years old and under.  Our Nation’s children are in serious trouble, and what’s frightening is that these are the people we look to for our future.  There have been thousands of studies conducted in an attempt to root out the underlying cause of juvenile delinquency, but there seems to be no clear cut answer.  Single parent homes, abusive parents, too much time spent in daycare, mental health issues and parents addicted to drugs and alcohol are some of the many factors identified as being the cause of juvenile delinquency.  Looking closely at the many studies conducted over the years, one factor that stands out is the correlation between poverty stricken communities and higher rates of juvenile delinquency (United States Federal Bureau of Investigations 17).

According to an article printed in US News & World Report (2011), the state with the highest crime index is St. Louis, Missouri followed by Atlanta, Georgia and tied for third place is Birmingham, Alabama and Orlando, Florida.  The STL Beacon published income statistics in September 2011 stating that 26.7% of their residents had income below the poverty level and 14% had income 50% below the poverty level.  Over 40% of their residents are impoverished.  The data also showed that of those living below poverty level, 41% were young children.  St. Louis’ juvenile arrest rate for children between the ages of 10 and 17 is higher than the national average, and for juvenile crimes involving weapons they are three times higher than the national average (Joiner 17).   A similar picture is painted in Atlanta with roughly 42 million residents living below poverty level (Kurtzleben 19).There is no doubt that children raised in communities suffering from higher than normal poverty levels are more at risk for becoming juvenile delinquents than those children who live in wealthier regions.

Society should be extremely concerned now more than ever for the future of our children in light of the ongoing economic downturn.   Areas of our nation which were already considered poor are only getting poorer and the children trapped in this poverty stricken communities will only become more of a danger. In 2011 the federal government spent $54 million on various programs which were designed to prevent juvenile delinquency and an additional $62 million to assist state and local governments in paying for juvenile detention costs.  Currently Congress is considering eliminating all funds related to the prevention of juvenile delinquency as well as cutting the dollars going to state and local governments for incarceration costs by 1/3. Obama’s Administration has proposed an $18 million increase for prevention programs and an $8 million increase for state and local governments to help pay for the cost of housing juvenile offenders (Washington Post 21).  There is a huge disjoint between attempting to balance the budget and saving the future of children and in turn keeping our communities safe from violent teens. The old adage “it takes a village to raise to raise a child” strikes at the root of our juvenile delinquency epidemic.

The implementation of an early childhood educational program which is aimed at building self-esteem, problem solving skills, developing communication skills and conflict resolution for children entering Kindergarten in communities affected by poverty is my proposed juvenile delinquency prevention plan. The core challenges that children from poor neighborhoods face are a lack of parental involvement due to the necessity for parents to work long hours or multiple jobs which leads to excessive amounts of time spent in daycare environments; continual exposure to negative neighborhood influences which later results in caving in to peer pressure; an overall sense of hopelessness and inability to rise above or “get out” of their current situation; and potentially being raised by substance dependent parents due to those individual’s hopelessness.  It’s a vicious cycle which can only be broken by very early education, both for the child and the parent (Michael 565).

The program will involve the school district, the parents and the community as a pronged approach that will be used in implementing the juvenile delinquency prevention program.  This education program begins in Kindergarten as a part of the daily curriculum and is taught through the eighth grade. The program involves the participation of parents and the local community.  The curriculum is designed specifically for overcoming the challenges of growing up in poor neighborhoods. There has been a wide believe that the initial intervention could be the best approach for aiding the prevention of juvenile delinquency. The prevention program will therefore involve the groups, individuals, and the organizational efforts that are aimed at keeping the juveniles from breaking the law. Different countries have been employing different methods to help in the discouragement of criminal and delinquent behavior. Some of the methods have been focused on the punitive prevention that is actually intended at frightening the prospective offenders through ensuring they are able to understand the likelihood of the severe punishment, or simply an action could be employed with the aim of preventing any recurrent crime that could be inclusive of providing explanation of the negative aspects of a given offence to a particular delinquent as well as making an attempt of reconciling the offenders and their different victims.

The program will recruit juveniles basically those below the age of eighteen and consequently there will be an individual appointed as the overall program manager with the help of five other people to help in the implementation of this program. Moreover, the specific objective of this program will be preventing the juvenile delinquency within the cities. The early juvenile delinquency prevention work has been implemented in different kinds of areas. However, this paper will incorporate an approach that will be implemented at the school, family, and community level. The educational program is expected to help the young individuals engage in the positive self appraisal, control aggression, and deal with the conflict. The program is meant to debunk the existing myth of gang glamour and consequently help the young individuals find different alternatives to their illegal behavior. The children who have been raised in the strong families, healthy communities, as well as quality schools typically develop the various skills as a matter of the course. In the U.S. schools, law enforcement agencies, local communities as well as parents of the adolescents are actually involved in the preventing programs (United Nations 7).

Youth development and recreational activities are encouraged in this program. Indeed a very wide variety of recreational services and facilities of any specific interest to the young individuals should be actually established and consequently made accessible to all the youths. It is has been reported that in various towns within the U.S. the basketball programs that were established for the adolescents resulted to a reduction of the crime rates by approximately 60 percent. The researchers who were involved in studies within Columbia University in the New York City reported that the establishment of girls and boys clubs in any public facility such as schools and public housing project ensured that the crime rates were reduced by approximately 13 percent.  It is reported that Stevenage which is a town within the UK where there has been an establishment of a large playground and youth center built as well as various clubs organized, the juveniles have been largely avoiding the delinquent activities (Dahlberg 23).

It will be significant to prevent juvenile delinquency through the changing of the urban environment by altering the various physical features through the landscape and architectural planning as well as providing several opportunities that would be able to engage the interest of the youths. A study that was carried out in one of the towns within the U.S. reported that most of the major activities that were carried out by the juvenile delinquent individuals were carried out in parks within towns. The layout of the various parks within different towns should therefore be redesigned in such a way that there are several recreational and leisure alternatives for the juveniles as well as their parents. Furthermore, this juvenile preventive program will also involve various recreational and leisure alternatives in the afternoons for the juveniles as well as their parents (Dahlberg 23). All these measures when implemented well will definitely lead to a considerable prevention of the juvenile delinquency as well as the violent offenses.

In the contemporary society, more attention has been focused to the responsibility and role of the local communities in managing the juvenile delinquency. The preventive juvenile delinquency program will be designed in such a way that it provides training for the groups as well as individual representatives of the local communities where there is an increase in juvenile delinquency to eventually increase the informal control of youths and subsequently include the young individuals in several constructive activities.          Indeed, the school of thought that the juveniles should work together with the adults so as to improve the living conditions with the communities have increasingly gained currency. Therefore, this program with incorporate a working relationship between the juveniles and the adults as a way of preventing juvenile delinquency. The juveniles will be incorporated into sitting in the boards, submitting different ideas and subsequently supporting the efforts of the local community through voluntary work that will be well structured (Dahlberg 23). This will be very promising development efforts that will help prevent juvenile delinquency as well as several other serious crimes. Further, the program will also incorporate any the involvement of juvenile in NGOs as volunteers.

Different agents that deal with prevention work are coordinating to avert this. There have been various initiatives aimed at prevention that even entire communities have designed and put in place. These have been more effective and specifically the ones focusing on the strengths and interests of young people as opposed to just looking into their problems or deficits. An example can be given of one city in the US law enforcers department as well as human service agencies have created a partnership with the locals in an effort aimed at combating crime especially in neighborhoods where crime is reported to be high. There is an inclusion of well established athletic leagues with a young person membership initiative and a teen’s youth forum that is meant to speak out on various problems affecting the community. There is evidence that this initiative contributed to a more than 29 percent drop in crime in the said neighborhoods which in turn leads to a violent crime reduction in the entire city (Dahlberg 23).

Institutions have also come up with programs meant to provide support, both socially and psychologically for individual persons and different social groups such as camps, alternative schools or group homes. When delivered in the context and setting described above, the end result will be an educational, psychological, behavioral and health attention improvement. Others on offer are planning for individual education and group or parent counseling that is based on containing or totally curbing juvenile delinquency. One thing that all of us have to agree on is that the family as the primary social institution is the one that plays the crucial role in preventing the rise of child and juvenile delinquency.. Prevention efforts aimed at assisting individual children with traits of this vice are quite impressive and will always receive support from all. An example is in the US where a parent managing clinic was given to parents with 3-8 year olds who have a prevalent problem in juvenile delinquency. The perceived end result is that a significant percentage of those children reformed back to a considerably normal range on behavior (United Nations 6).

At times, there is need to initiate special programs in order to tackle the common and malignant problem of homeless and unaccompanied children. This is inclusive of rehabilitation schemes aimed at taking these children from the streets and giving them a living and purpose of living. Even the UN convention that deals with child rights and gives a perfect framework whose aim is to improve the conditions in which these children live in. It is however apparent that many countries still maintain prevention programs that can be termed as somehow punitive due to the way they try to suppress juvenile and offences committed by the youth. This includes prohibitions on gang recruitment drives as well as the expansion of criminal behaviors by means of a continual police surveillance and presence. Serious prosecution measures are also initiated in order to discourage these vices. Many states worldwide have wholly legitimized suppression as a form of active behavior correction and intervention. The general belief is that this strategy is inherently perfect and that it needs no more justification or the requirement for evaluation to see whether it works and produces the expected result. It is to be noted all the more that this approach at times is inclusive of aggression especially from the authorities and in most cases it has been known to cause further behavior integration of the problematic ones into even more delinquent groups (United Nations 8).

A purely preventive effort that is more based on suppression is in most cases not a very effective way of improving or changing youths who are already in trouble. Many of the prevailing crimes in the society are committed by a mere handful of previous offenders who seemingly have undergone a serious problem related to juvenile delinquent behavior. For such kind of individuals whenever spotted, a more stringent, deliberative and tactical approach is a must. Recurrent crime prevention can only be effectively achieved via a more restorative justice system. It can be acquired or undertaken by existing non-governmental organizations dealing with remedial procedures or even local communities. This type of justice is regarded as a very effective form of criminal justice and correction. The basics of the process are that all parties who claim a stake in a particular offence come to a common platform and together, they evaluate how best to cope with the aftermaths of offences that they deal with every other day coupled with any future implications. On this platform, the offender and the victim will meet and the former will understand the seriousness of the situation experienced by the latter and together they can formulate a work plan and a sequence of steps that can lead towards reconciliation, retribution and any damages incurred by the victim can get the justified compensation. If the resolution is reached at, there will be no need to put the juvenile character in a correction center or giving them the delinquent tag. They will also avoid the dangers of strain and influence that come with jail or prison environment which in essence are just reinforcement to delinquent behavior (United Nations 9).

It is important to undertake the reconciliation process in a cautious manner to avert the possibility of the offender perceiving it as a sealed deal between them and the victim. This scenario has been proven and emphasized by many a researcher to have taken place. A focus on reconstructive justice reveals that the major element is the reconciliation of the two parties involved, namely; the offender and the victim. The procedures involved are vital not just for the correction of the offender but it is imperative that justice and restoration be availed to the victim. In crime control and prevention strategies, the overall support and protection offered to the victims as well as the witnesses is supreme and the most basic factor in criminal justice. The measures put in place to reduce the impact of crime on the individuals who appear to be the most affected are vital for victim and witness role preservation and protection in the process of justice. This type of justice can intensively help in the investigation process as well as crime prosecution through the initiative of rapport and harmony creation amongst the witnesses, crime victims as well as the law enforcers and the prosecution agencies (United Nations 11).

Experts are of the view that crime victims will always demand restitution in order to for them to feel a sense of honor and dignity restoration. The compensation is meant to acknowledge the trauma they underwent and give them a means of a rehabilitation process that enables them to go back to their lives with a sense of dignity and self-worth. The process of restorative justice is very essential in curbing juvenile delinquency due to the aspect of focus that it brings in terms of reconciling the parties involved (United Nations 14).

The juvenile delinquency can be explained using the social learning theory. Albert Bandura developed his theory of social learning in 1977. In this theory, Bandura indicated through numerous experiments, that the presence of consequences was not mandatory, in order for learning to occur. Learning could take place through simple observation of other peoples’ activities (Leonard 19). He demonstrated this through the Bobo doll experiment. In this experiment, Bandura demonstrated that, children can change their behavior patterns simply by observing others. He held a notion that, aggression can be explained in three dimensions. The first dimension is how aggressive modes of behaving are developed; secondly, what factors make individuals to show aggressive behavior, and what indicates if this pattern of aggressive behaviors will be sustained in the future (Leonard 16).

Social theory is based on observational learning, which is sometimes referred to as imitation or modeling. In the social learning process, learning takes place when people imitate and observe others (Leonard 12). In this process there are four aspects. They are influenced by the observer’s perception, after being exposed to learning models. These aspects include: retention, attention, motivation, and motor reproduction (Leonard 14). The first component of observation learning is attention. People cannot learn a lot by observing without perceiving and concentrating on the important aspects of the behavior in the learning model. For example, Mary had to pay attention to what her abusive fathers were doing, for her to reproduce the same behaviors later (Leonard 14).

The second component of social learning is retention. For an individual to reproduce the behavior in the model, the individual must retain the information in long term memory. This will enable future retrieval (Gambrill 47). For example, Mary had to retain the images of violence and abuse in her mind as a child, to enable her to reproduce them later, in her adult life. She retained both verbal and physical abuse from her parents, which she utilized later in her crimes.

The third process in observational learning is motor reproduction. The individual, who learn though observation, must be in a position to physically reproduce the behavior in the mode of learning (Gambrill 50). A case which shows motor reproduction is where an individual learns how to ride a bike. After a behavior is learnt through the processes of attention and retention, the observer must be in opposition to produce the learned behavior. Mary had the ability to reproduce her learnt behavior, through her violent adult life.

Reinforcement or motivation is the final stage of observational learning. In this stage, the individual expects to obtain positive reinforcement from the learned behavior. In the Bobo doll experiment performed by Bandura, children were made to watch violence in films. These children observed that, adult in the film who acted violently, were rewarded for their behavior. Therefore, these children after watching the film, acted violently to achieve the same results. Bandura also observed that, as these children grew up, the violence they were exposed to formed part of their personality as adults. This turned them into violent adult (Gambrill 43).The second influence of social learning in children is the environment. Bandura observed that people, who resided in areas with high rates of crime, are more likely to exhibit violent behavior, than those who live in areas with low crime. Neighborhoods characterized by decay, cultural conflicts and poor social structures, were observed to be major sources of crime (Gambrill 147).

Other social learning theorists have agreed with Bandura that, crime is as a result of learning the norms and aggressive behavior connected to criminality. These theorists indicate that, people learn criminal acts from peers and family members, during the adolescent stage. They observe that, teenagers who spent a lot of time watching television during their childhood, developed criminal tendencies in their adult life. They engaged in crimes, such as assault and rape. This was in contrast with teenage boys who watched low amount of violent television films. Bandura’s social theory of learning has made the general public to know that, exposure of children to violence, normally make them to engage in aggressive behavior (Gambrill 50). This program is expected to be funded by several Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO’s) who work with the children as well as the government. Moreover, there have been other programs that have been implemented in this area but with minimal success. This program is therefore one of a kind and is expected to at the end of its implementation, prevent the juvenile delinquency.

Conclusion

This paper has discussed a program on preventing juvenile delinquency in the city. There has been a problem of juvenile delinquency globally. Juvenile delinquency is a very broad term that is often used to refer to the juveniles who have committed criminal activities. The juvenile delinquency can be explained using social learning theory. Social learning theory is a behavior based theory, which can be applied in criminology.  However, with the implementation of this program the juvenile delinquency will definitely be prevented and consequently eliminated within the cities.

Works Cited

Brown Ray, Katherine & Alarid, L. Fifta. Examining Racial Disparity of Male Property Offenders in the Missouri Juvenile Justice System. Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice, 2004, 2(2): 107-128.

Gambrill, Eileen. Critical thinking in clinical practice: Improving the quality of judgments and decisions (2nd ed.). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2005.

Dahlberg, Robin. Disproportionate Minority Confinement in Massachusetts: Failures in Assessing and Addressing the Overrepresentation of Minorities in the Massachusetts Juvenile Justice System. New York, NY: American Civil Liberties Union, 2003

Leonard, C. David. Learning theories: A to z. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2002.

Michael H. Miner, The Fallacy of Juvenile Sex Offender Risk, 6 CRIMINOLOGY & PUBLIC POLICY 565, (2007).

STL Beacon, Increase in poverty rate hits minorities hardest Robert, 09.25.11″Federal cuts imperil juvenile justice programs.” Editorial. The Washington Post. 25 Oct. 2011.

United States Federal Bureau of Investigations. Uniform Crime Reports. Ten Year Arrest Trends [Data file], 2011. Retrieved on April 22, 2012 from http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2010/crime-in-the-u.s.-2010/tables/10tbl32.xls.

US News& World Report. The 11 Most Dangerous Cities, These cities have the highest overall crime rates in the United States, Danielle Kurtzleben, February 16, 2011

United Nations, “Rights of the child: additional report of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Mr. Olara A. Otunnu, submitted in accordance with General Assembly resolution 56/138” (E/CN.4/2002/85).

United Nations. Juvenile Delinquency. Retrieved on April 23, 2012 from http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/unyin/documents/ch07.pdf

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