Prevention of juvenile delinquency necessarily means early intervention. An early intervention can help the children become healthy, happy and satisfied adolescents and socially good adults. This is how the society overall can be saved from many evils since juvenile crime results in adult criminals and antisocial behavior. This need programs that provides guidelines to parents, teachers and other community partners who are in close contact with the children. The approach needed to solve the problem should be selected with caution; not every youth is same nor the crime they have committed is same, sometimes the intervention of juvenile justice system does more harm than good.
There are various ways in which the juvenile courts, parents, teacher or other community members can intervene in the life of a juvenile. The choice of each method depends on the type and severity of the crime committed by the youth.
Juvenile delinquency prevention
Early intervention programs help positive youth development for those teens and kids who are at risk. There are various youth development models provided by the researchers that can be used by the community workers, teachers or parents. A lot of efforts is done in the development of these programs so they can best solve the problem. Various studies have been conducted to study the components in youth development models that are responsible for the success or failure.
Who are the children at risk?
The question arises that who are the “children at risk”? Some people find the word at-risk offensive and they prefer to say children who are facing challenges. There are various risk factors that are considered but generally speaking children with following attributes are considered at risk of juvenile delinquency.
- Difficulty in making decisions or making decisions that are unacceptable in the society
Decision making is also influenced by socioeconomic, personality or family problems.
- Continuous failure in academic life
Children who are at risk may have problems reading, writing, understanding due to lack of concentration. Absentees from school can also be a factor to check. These children cannot use their potential to gain good grades and other academic achievements.
- Failure in achieving personal goals
Either they make unrealistic goals that are difficult to achieve or else they cannot prioritize their goals. Some kids who are at risk might not be able to make a workable practical plan.
- Behavior problems
Aggressive and hyper behavior in class with teachers or with other students can be a risk factor, though it does not necessitate juvenile delinquency in future but any behavior associated with adverse outcomes should be considered.
- Psychological problems
Various kids in schools go through psychological problems which are sometimes normal, as kids reach the age of puberty they face such problems. Psychological and emotional problems like anxiety, depression, and phobias need to be solved before they become root for some evils.
- Drugs or alcohol use
The use of alcohol or drugs mean that the child or youth is already indulged in criminal activities, still, the intervention of teachers, parents or other community members can help.
Though none of the above-mentioned risk factors are conclusive of adverse effects on the children. These factors are subjective and depending on the condition and lifestyle of each child they will have different implications in future.
How to provide early intervention?
There are various ways and after understanding the socioeconomic status, personality and psychological condition of the child or youth the parents, teachers or other community members can intervene.
- Learning and creativity
The classroom environment is an important place to bring forward positive attitude and positive thinking in kids and youth. Through an environment that promotes positive learning in kids who are at risk an optimistic thinking can be developed. A curriculum that promotes conflict resolution and healthy peer relationships the kids and youth can be motivated towards positive life. This will also prevent violence, bullying, and any pessimistic approach of kids.
Recreation programs, especially after school recreation or sports activities, can help at-risk kids involved in healthy activities. Kids at-risk or facing challenges should be involved in the organization and decision making in the class as well as in the school matters.
The sense of belonging, affiliation, association, and adherence brings forward positive energy in kids. In school kids who find themselves part of a group that shares same interests are more satisfied and content. When a child is part of a positive group he/she can easily resist the pressure of negative groups. Kids who do not find bonding with their parents often seek for intimacy earlier than other kids.
Dealing with juvenile delinquents
Kids who are already involved in some criminal activities need to be dealt with care, mishandling can do more harm than good. For juvenile delinquents, there are various ways of dealing.
The first step is always an intervention from parents, other family members, teachers, police or other authorities or community members. After the intake of the case by the court following decisions can be made.
The court can order to dismiss the case if it’s appropriate, the judge decides not to adjudicate the case and to dismiss it. In this case, the petition is dismissed and cleared from court records.
Sometimes the court and the other members involved in the juvenile intervention decides to divert the juvenile case away from the formal court environment. The purpose of diversion is to maintain the good personality of the youth who has indulged in a crime for the first time or who is already feeling guilty of the crime he/she has committed. Diversion is a good way to avoid any disgrace the youth will go through and as a consequence of which he/she might become more stubborn and indulge in more criminal activities.
The decision of detention is made by the court. The purpose of detention can be many but usually when an offender needs to be kept away from the public for their safety the court orders detention for a short period of time until a final court order is released.
- Secure placement
For the safety of the community and for the betterment of the juvenile the judge can decide to place him in a place away from the public. In such place, all the essentials like education, food, recreation and other requirements are fulfilled, along with that the youth is involved in learning activities where he can learn new things.
- Probation supervision
In probation supervision, the juvenile is asked to perform some community services in charge for the crime he/she has committed. This probation is well supervised by some responsible agency.
When the juvenile is thought to be free of charge he is deemed free to reenter in the society and engage in all the activities.
- Oliver W. Edwards, Vincent E. Mumford and Rut Serra-Roldan, A Positive Youth Development Model for Students Considered At-Risk, University of Central Florida, Orlando, FL, USA and Central Michigan University, Mount Pleasant, MI, USA