Law Enforcement and the Youthful Offender

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The forth factor is social-class membership: middle-class and lower-class delinquency. Despite the professed democratic idea of a “classless” society, a realistic appraisal of the contemporary social-economic map dictates an irrefutable fact: Americans are stratified into hierarchical system of power, prestige, and value-oriented groupings. Awareness of social stratification groupings is unnecessary so long as people’s life styles, values, ideals, motivations, and social intercourse are limited to sets of clique of like-minded, similarly oriented people. American lower-class and middle-class subcultures differ from one another at highly significant points. But the most crucial differences, in terms of delinquency, relate to the vastly different child–rearing techniques and social values instilled in children by the two classes. At the risk of generalizing, it can be asserted that where the middle class typically stresses parent/children relationship geared to love and dependence through late adolescence, the lower class tend to give their children physical and psychological freedom well before the adolescence years. It is far from surprising, then, that delinquency finds far more fertile ground in the lower class sectors of the typical city – and particularly in those that are situated in slum areas. Bearing in mind what we have already observed about the adolescent rejection of parental values and need for peer-group identification, we can readily see the intense grip that the gang – delinquent or “legitimate” – holds on the lower class adolescent’s loyalties. More frequently - almost typically, in fact – the middle class delinquent is a diametric counterpart of the lower class delinquent. Where the lower class delinquent is smoothly socialized and well-liked by hi peers, the former middle-class delinquent is often seriously maladjusted ant at odds with his fellow adolescents.

So as one can see, the juvenile justice system has many segments. Police, courts, correctional institutes, and aftercare services (the correctional process that deals with the juvenile after institutionalization has taken place is referred to as aftercare services). The interrelationship between various segments of the system is, apparently, the most significant problem in the juvenile justice system. In other words, the system is no more systematic than the relationship between police and court, court and probation, probation and correctional institutes, correctional institutes and aftercare services. In the absence of functional relationship between segments, the juvenile justice system is vulnerable to fragmentation and ineffectiveness.

As previously noted, delinquency is a phenomena as old as history and as complex as nuclear physics. Its causes are multiply, and the emphasis shifts with the changes in society. Nor are all delinquents cast from the same mold – they are individual human beings with all their differences. Because there are so many possible causes of delinquency, a wide variety of factors tend to be held responsible – separately or in combination. The individual himself, his family, his neighbors, his school, his church, his place of residence, his government – an endless list which is, thus, the reason for ambiguities in theories. The result: everyone is responsible for delinquency and, of course, when everyone is responsible for something, no one really is. Traditionally, all efforts in prevention have been aimed toward containing and repressing incipient delinquents through law enforcement agencies. In recent years, there have been strong efforts to improve rehabilitative processes for already identified delinquents so that the amount of recidivism might be reduced. So the way to solve the delinquency problem is to prevent boys and girls from becoming delinquents in the first place. Society is not solving that problem because the emphasis is not placed on that all-important job: prevention. Moreover, it appears that society is blocked by a psychological wall of fallacies which keep everyone busy with impractical plans that are doomed to fail right from the start. The correctional program in the United States seems to be content with treating individual delinquents after they have already committed delinquent acts, while such programs overlook most entirely the factors that contribute to delinquency. Society must find a way to correct the faulty home and environment before child becomes a police case. It is both unfair and impractical to rely upon a few private a agencies to do this large-scale, complex public job.

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