Juvenile offenders are generally treated differently than adult offenders. When it comes to juvenile offenders, the state is often perceived to take the role of a parent wherein it seek to provide rehabilitation rather than punishment. Some people, however, argue that juveniles should be treated as adults and must be confined in adult prisons. There are those who support that separation of juveniles into juvenile facilities citing social and psychological theories those points out to the special needs of juveniles. This paper would like to examine the difference between juveniles and adults on the way they offend; on how they should be punished as well as on how the current juvenile programs affect its subjects in terms of criminal recidivism.
Difference in Adult and Child Offenders
Psychologists believe that there is a huge difference on the way children and teenagers think as compared to adults. According to scholars, “many adolescents do not have the same control over their actions as mature adults and should be treated differently”. The cognitive development theory developed by Jean Piaget, for example, posits that children undergo several stages of mental development . According to Piaget, from 0 to 2 years old, the child is under sensorimotor stage wherein he uses only his senses and motor skills and has little knowledge of his surroundings . At 2 to 7 years old, the child is under the pre-operational stage where language, memory and imagination begin to develop. At 7 to 11 years old, the child is the concrete operational stage where the child is already aware of his actions but fails to recognize its consequences. Lastly, at 11 to 15 years old or what Piaget calls as the formal operational stage, the child reaches adolescence where he already learns to make abstract thoughts and ideas. Piaget’s cognitive development theory suggests that children do have different psychological abilities when it comes to committing delinquency because their mental capacities are not yet fully developed as compared to adults. Most likely because of their developing mental state, juveniles are easily influenced by their surroundings. As observed by Ziiadova, the changing social climate can pose negative effects on children and adolescents that could influence their behavior and lead to delinquency.
Juveniles Detention Centers
Juveniles undergo several treatment methods and continue with their education while they are housed in detention centers. On the other hand, their behaviors are closely monitored for progress as well as to check for possible personality issues that needs special treatments. Aside from the continuation of their education and psychological treatments, some juvenile facilities can employ unconventional methods such as sports and musical activities. Baker and Homans, for example, studied how music program affects young offenders and found that the chances of recidivism decreases significantly for those who are engaged in such musical activities. Baker and Homans concluded that creative programs such as musical activities has a positive impact to juvenile offenders and offers a huge potential in neutralizing the powerful social and economic forces that produce juvenile behavior. Along with creative activities, juvenile centers also provide vocational training to their clients or the juvenile offenders that they are working with. As observed by Debbiesiu and Lee, “juvenile detention centers may be most efficacious by serving as both place and process to create career opportunity through vocational training”.
Punishment for Juvenile Delinquents
As observed, juveniles are treated as if the state is a parent and the juvenile offender is a child that it needs to discipline and rehabilitate. Unlike adults, a juvenile that commits an offense is considered as delinquent while an adult that offends are considered.as criminals. Also, the approach of the state towards juvenile offenders is not to punish but to rehabilitate. Depending on the case, there are instances when juveniles are tried and convicted as adults. In such case, they may be transferred to an adult prison while serving their sentence. Such punishment, however, could pose several risks for the offending juvenile. As observed by Wood, there are numerous cases of juveniles being abused and raped in adult prisons and instead of being rehabilitated; most end up worse than they first came in prison. For the same reason, most state has established their juvenile centers where juvenile delinquents are housed. It is believed that with proper treatment and intervention, juveniles can be reintroduced into society to live a normal and better life. The prison environment, on the other hand, does not help juveniles develop their emotional, mental and psychological well-being. In fact, it is believed that adult prison can make them even worse. According to scholars, the influence of peers among juveniles is strong. In a study, it was found that adolescent mice consume more alcohol when they are with their peers as compared to adult mice. This findings suggests that an adult prison environment is detrimental to the juvenile because he is exposed role models where his delinquent tendency in further encouraged.
The separation of juvenile delinquents is evidently necessary to correct their behavior. Due to the different programs and intervention initiatives that are being used in juvenile facilities, juvenile offenders’ tendency for recidivism is greatly reduced. It can therefore be deduced that the separation of juvenile delinquents from adult prisons should be encouraged.
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