When an individual below the age of eighteen is involved in a crime, the juvenile is known as a delinquent (National Institute of Justice, 2018). These may include crimes against people and property, drug offenses as well as truancy. Zagar, Busch, & Hughes (2009) explain that although it is impossible to predict possible future delinquents fully, there exist risk factors which correlate with delinquency, among them abusive backgrounds, lack of basic needs and substance exposure. Juvenile delinquency prevention is an attempt aimed at redirecting the youth who are prone to committing a crime before they join the criminal world.
Fundamental Principles of Prevention
Family background in the form of upbringing, care and guidance have a role to play in delinquency. Research has shown that the probability of children engaging in crime increases tenfold when adult guidance is absent. Sullenger (1934) states that children raised in households devoid of love, warmth, and sympathy are prone to joining street life or crime, same to those from broken homes. On the flipside, the pampered from affluent backgrounds become delinquents because the parents spend more time trying to fulfill personal ambitions, business success or occupations that do not allow them time and space to raise their children in an upright manner. It is on this basis that home visitation programs exist.
The environment is another principle that guides delinquency prevention, best explained by the routine activities theory which suggests that motivation, availability of a target and the absence of supervision create the most suitable environment for crime (Morrow, 2018). Easy targets and ample time for a misdemeanor is a significant motivation for juveniles (Bernasco, Ruiter & Block, 2016). The focus of prevention is therefore on various opportunity structures and recreation programs that allow children to spend time with adults, build positive friendships and exchange life skills.
It is also essential to understand the individual during the planning and administration of delinquency prevention measures. It thrives on the psychodynamic theory which states that human personality is a product of three components; the 'id' (an unrestrained pleasure-seeking component), the 'ego' obtained through the realities and experiences of the world and the 'superego' built through morals and conscience (Sincero, 2012). A disconnect between the three components creates an unstable child who is likely to engage in crime either for attention seeking or getting back at society.
Juvenile Prevention Programs
The Guiding Good Choices (GGC) exists to cater for children between eight and fourteen years who are prone to drugs and substance abuse. It uses a multimedia approach to promote healthy interactions between parents and their children geared toward reducing the risk of delinquency as a result of adolescence (Childtrends.org., 2010). Children attend one of the five sessions and learn the skills necessary for resisting negative peer pressure, while the other four courses are for the parents to develop better parenting skills and positive child involvement in family activities.
PCIT International (2018) explains that the Parent-Child Interaction Training program was initiated to help 2 - 7 year-olds with behavioral problems like destructive tendencies, tantrums or aggressiveness. Through a mirror or live feed, a therapist observes the behavior and interaction between a parent and child, offering lessons to the parent through an earpiece on how to build a cordial relationship with the child, reduce the aggression and to remain calm yet firm in the administration of discipline. The result should be a child who learns how to accept limits, follow directions and respect rules.
According to the National Institute of Justice (2018), children are tempted into deviant behavior if they spot loopholes that can help them get away with it. The general deterrence approach comes in as a solution and the premise on which the Scared Straight program was born. The program allows direct contact between delinquents and adult inmates through jail tours and exposing them to the harsh conditions in federal prison (Renee, 2016). The goal is to use the intimidating sights and sounds like a deterrent measure to scare them out of crime (Petrosino et al., 2014).
Successes and Failures of Prevention programs
A survey carried out by the Escondido Gang Reduction, Intervention and Prevention Task Force (2017) approves of the Guiding Good Choices as a practical approach in promoting robust communication and quality relationships between parents and children. Test results indicated an 89 percent uptake of parents having confidence in pointing their children away from drugs, a 13 percent increase from the survey results taken before the program. These findings that support the idea that GGC significantly helps reduce youth initiation into drug use.
Statistical and clinical results demonstrate significant improvements in behavior and compliance to rules in children whose parents applied skills learned from the PCIT program (Institute for Family Development, 2018). Also, there are tremendous results concerning the development of language skills and self-esteem especially in the preschoolers who had initially shown slow rates of growth. Reports from teachers also show that PCIT measures help children reduce hyperactivity, disruptive behaviors, disobedience and breaking the rules in the school setting.
The Scared Straight program has been criticized by psychologists who believe that some offenders are unable to appreciate punishment. Renee (2016) explains that not only is Scared Straight ineffective but also controversial, as evidence shows the program increases delinquency. The argument is that deterrence hardly takes into account the background and upbringing of most juveniles (Chamberlin, 2001). That they commit crimes is a product of their socio-economic backgrounds including but not limited to poverty, a hostile childhood, criminal peers on inadequate education.
Delinquents are said to be in need of specialized handling because they are at a stage that has the potential for behavior change, which makes rehabilitation a considerable option. With an emphasis on correctional measures designed, there exist treatment programs for youths who are already in juvenile facilities (OJJDP, 1999). Though called treatment, it is in the form of therapy sessions and not actual medicine intended to change the mindsets of delinquents so that they turn a new leaf away from crime. It also works towards ensuring successful reintegration of ex-offenders into the community without recidivism.
Fundamental Principles of Treatment
Legislation is a familiar principle that guides the type of action taken towards juveniles during treatment. Turner (n.d) explains that policy bars the Juvenile Court from committing a child to a correctional facility unless the said individual is a serious menace to society or risks harm to himself or others if not confined. The laws also illegalize the use of extreme force or torture when administering delinquency treatment, as well as interventions like solitary confinement. The law only allows such drastic measures when the delinquent at hand has a history of chronic violence or has committed a capital offense against another individual, like murder.
Treatment programs also revolve around the immediate relations of the delinquent, for instance, family members, peers, and teachers. Relationships is a factor worth involving because the expected interaction with the child who is undergoing rehabilitation could help the course or undo it all. Furthermore, this gives the therapist a chance to identify the source of the problem and offer practical treatment. Further afield, Cognition and Morality also come into play when planning treatment, as the courses are designed based on theories of cognitive behavioral change, social learning, and morality. Clark (2010) explains that people's thoughts and behaviors are usually guided by experience, therefore improving their social skills, moral reasoning and cognition are critical steps in solving some delinquency problems.
Types of Treatment
McGarvey (2012) states that Cognitive-behavioral Therapy (CBT) has proved itself as a practical treatment for delinquents. It is a series of programs that incorporate experimental psychology through cognitive therapy, social learning and behavioral therapy, tailored towards the particular delinquent. The treatment begins with the recognition of feelings that could cause destructive behavior as well as high-risk thoughts and situations, followed by replacing the negative thoughts and feelings with constructive ones. The final stage is promoting cognitive discipline in different aspects of the individual's life.
Moral Reconation Therapy (MRT) seeks to increase moral reasoning while reducing the levels of recidivism among juveniles (National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, 2018). MRT thrives on findings that pointed to juvenile offenders having deficits in moral reasoning as a result of low self-esteem, resistance to change and narcissism (McGarvey, 2012). The program borrows heavily from the Moral Development theory which suggests that a child's reasoning develops through several stages, with the sixth being the most advanced level. It, therefore, infuses cognitive components into morality by addressing the child's social and behavioral deficits.
The Intensive Protective Supervision was born out of the idea that intensive supervision of status offenders by court counselors rather than regular protective supervision works better in decreasing the rate of recidivism (Land & McCall, 1991). The program, therefore, removes youth from the justice system and puts them under community supervision. It targets teenagers below the age of sixteen who are petty offenders with little in the way of delinquency. IPS counselors visit the youth's families to offer parental support in building and modeling positive behavior.
Successes and Failures of Treatment programs
With effective implementation and supervision, Cognitive-behavioral Therapy has had a high record of reducing the rates of recidivism. McGarvey (2012) underpins that rather than punish young offenders, it seeks to remedy the causes of misbehavior by changing the brain's architecture. The result is that positive thought processes foster reformed individuals by making them associate constructive behavior with gratifying emotions. For juveniles, it helps them understand and appreciate the need for maintaining a lasting transformation, which allows them to rejoin community with broad skills that they can use constructively.
The National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (2018) alludes to an El Paso County report which shows a drastic improvement in cognitive decision-making by participants since the introduction of the MRT program. It further states that successful implementation of MRT effectively reduced recidivism as only 8.6% of the clients reoffended. The information is corroborated by the National Association of Drug Court Professionals research which showed evidence that incorporating maturational and cognitive interventions in rehabilitation reduces delinquency and substance abuse (Marlowe, 2010).
The Intensive Protective Supervision program is responsible for both short and long-term reductions in juvenile offending. Land & McCall (1991) points out that IPS was the reason behind a fifteen to twenty percent drop in the rate of progression against interventions from control centers. Furthermore, 65 percent of youth in the program completed the treatment, a higher figure than the 45 percent from controlled groups.
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