Juvenile crimes now encompass a significant proportion of the criminal activities in totality. Juveniles require special handling compared to their adults counterparts. This is due to the fact criminal behavior at this period of time is not necessarily continued into adulthood. They are considered to be in a formative period. Hence, rehabilitation is more essential for use among juvenile offenders than adults. There are variations and differences that exist in the programs utilized for juvenile and adult offenders. These differences exist in terms of staff expertise, environment, restraints and force use, education offered, work and access to inmates.
The staff that handles the juvenile cases needs to be specially trained. Handling adult offenders is much different from handling delinquents. Juvenile offenders are found to be difficult to deal with and volatile despite their young age (Sutherland, 1947). A different level of expertise is therefore required for those who are to deal with juvenile offenders. They should preferably have received special training so as to be able to handle the variations in behavior that is found between the above two groups.
Another difference in the treatment of the above two groups is in terms of restraint use and physical force when handling them. It is imperative to note that young offenders should be treated with a less amount of force than their adult counterparts, for the obvious reason that their physical system is still fragile in a way. Several courts prohibit the restraint of juveniles to fixed objects as exemplified by the state division for youth in New York. It is also improper to employ tear gas in juveniles as compared to adult offenders. This is despite the fact that in juvenile cases, chemical restraints are rarely litigated. Isolation times for juvenile offenders are also shortened in contrast to adults. Close observation and monitoring is usually encouraged in most delinquents, as opposed to the isolation that is imposed on adult offenders (Murray, 2009).
Though proper environmental conditions are required in both cases, juveniles require sound environmental conditions. Juveniles in custody are usually provided with supplies that are adequate for optimal hygiene levels. They are usually given more opportunities for showering and change of clothes. This is for the obvious reasons that their immune system is highly susceptible to opportunistic infections as opposed to adults. It is in the same line of thoughts that children are usually supplied with balanced diets, and in some places, snacks at night. Food is also never withheld from children because of disciplinary reasons as compared to the adult offenders. Adults wear specific uniforms when in custody, while juveniles may be allowed to wear clothes that are similar to those worn by those in the community.
Juveniles are entitled to benefit more from special education than adults. They are at a stage in life where this education can be employed in later life at a significant advantage than the adults. Delinquents are usually eligible to a wide range of education and related services such as evaluation and assessment. Therefore, all juvenile offenders have access to educational services and none should be denied (Murray, 2009).
In terms of labor while in custody, the range of work that can be done by the two groups is different in most ways. Delinquents cannot be exploited for their labor, in contrast to adults where this often happens. Delinquents should also not be made to work for the personal benefit of any staff member. Simpler tasks are usually issued to juvenile offenders such as cleaning up their cells.
There are several theories that have developed as an attempt to explain the reasons behind committing a crime. These theories try to explain how certain behavior develops as opposed to how the behavior is. These theories include: classical theory, biological theory, psychological and social theory. These theories have been used on several occasions in law in administering punishment to the offenders. They are also associated with the development of the different programs under which the law offenders will be placed.
In classical criminology theory is based on the free will notion. This means that one makes the choice to commit the crime. In this school of thought the individuals are believed to commit a crime after they have weighed the pros and cons of committing the crime. This theory is closely related to the expected utility principle which upholds that individual act to increase their benefits while reducing their losses. Juvenile punishment programs are different from the adult programs as they are aimed correcting the child by teaching them how to make better choices.
A core principle in classical theory is the deterrence theory which stipulates that crime can be controlled by use of punishment that has a precise combination of celerity, severity and certainty. Punishment in the juvenile programs is aimed at rehabilitation of these individuals by helping them make better choices. They are also based on the fact that these individuals are in their formative stage and thus if corrected crime will not continue into adulthood.
Another application of the classical theory is the access of special education to the juveniles. This enables them to be self sufficient upon release. They are also said to benefit from these programs as they are able to make rational choices once faced with challenges in the future.
The biological criminology theory explains criminal behavior as a result of an individual’s genetic composition. The theory argues that criminal behavior results from inborn genetic errors and abnormalities. In the 19th century Lombroso argued that the born criminals could be identified by their characteristics which were dictated by their genes (Cottle, 2001).
This theory is closely related to the evolutionary view in which criminal behavior is genetically inherited from one generation to another. The theory thus advocates for punishment that aims at correcting the genetic abnormality so as to correct the crime. These forms of punishment include medications, segregation, and elimination of the gene so that it is not passed on to another person.
In juvenile correction programs these individual undergo special education aimed at regulating some of the erratic behaviors. The offenders are also segregated from the larger society so as to correct their behaviors. Although a useful theory its application in the judicial system is limited as it advocates for elimination of the person rather than the correction of the individual so as to eliminate crime (Cottle, 2001).
Psychological theory on the other hand offers an explanation of criminal behavior based on Feud’s principles. This theory advocates that criminal act results from conflicts between id, ego and superego. This theory focuses on the development of an individual through the early childhood. It also advocates that criminal acts result from the lack of sufficient personality. As opposed to the adult judicial system, the juvenile judicial system the personnel have to be specially trained to handle the prisoners. This is because the child offenders are more difficult to handle. In the juvenile correction programs, psychological counseling is employed so as to correct the erratic behavior (Sutherland, 1947).
In social criminology theory, criminality is said to result from adoption of behavior from those whom we interact with. This theory attempts to explain how criminal ideas and behaviors are transmitted from one person to another. They believe that criminal behavior is learned from another individual. The learning theorists advocate for punishment that eliminates the rewards for these behaviors while increasing the consequences of the same. In the juvenile correction programs various aspects are employed that relate to this theory this include segregation of the child from the society and limited access to various entertainment facilities. Various studies have shown this to be effective in the correction of such behaviors (Chadwick, 2004).
The case study cited is Pena versus State Division for Youth (New York, 1976). In this case, the plaintiff, John Pena, argued that the use of forceful physical and medical restraint violated the eighth and fourteen amendments. Since he was a juvenile, this treatment did not tally with his case. He also argued against solitary confinement and wanted to receive rehabilitative treatment as stipulated in the constitution. The judge, Motley granted him this right. Currently this case applies in many of the juvenile cases.
Chadwick, A. (2004). Peer relations in childhood. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 45(1), 84–108.
Cottle, C. (2001). The prediction of criminal recidivism in juveniles: A meta-analysis. Criminal Justice and Behaviour, 28(3), 367–394.
Murray, C. (2009). Typologies of young resisters and desisters. Youth Justice, 9(2), 115–129.
Pena V. New York State Division for Youth, 419 F. Supp. 203 (S.D. N.Y. 1976).
Sutherland, H. (1947). Principles of Criminology. 4th Edition. NY. McGraw Hill.