Children, as our messengers into the future we will not be able to experience, are our most valuable resource. Hence, the serious threat juvenile delinquents pose to the current and future safety of the American society. Debates have aroused about parents’ legal responsibility for their minor children’s behavior, both civil and criminal. So far, there are laws established that hold parents only civilly liable, like the Parent Liability Child’s act, where the parent’s obligation is to pay, depending on the State’s maximum monetary amount, for damage done by their minor children until they reach the age of majority. However, many people, including myself, believe that Chicago’s high crime rate and the coward tendency of parents saying, “I didn’t know” should no longer be an excuse for raising soon-to-be-adult criminals. In an effort to decline juvenile delinquency and force parents to engage in their children’s lives better, parents should be criminally liable alongside their child, in contrast to others that believe only individuals that took part in the crime should be punished.
Beyond the basic parental responsibilities, such as shelter, clothing, and food, parents need to understand that their obligation does not stop there. They have a responsibility, when it comes to raising their child’s morals of right and wrong from birth to adulthood. If an adult is going to bring a new life into society, he/she should know that it requires an 18-year duty. As Gabriella Samms says, “If we spend more time away from our children than we do with them, how well do we know them enough to understand what they have learned or what more needs to be taught?” Instead, some parents like to throw unknowing children into society that is filled with temptations. Therefore, parents or guardians represent the only blamable target.
Family is a risk factor associated with a higher likelihood of delinquency. It is no surprise, since home is the root to our mentality and ethics. How can a child be ready for society, when he or she has been abused or maltreated and has never seen any good? From Pittsburg and Cambridge longitudinal studies, it shows that having a father, mother, brother, or sister who displays criminal behavior is a significant risk factor for delinquent behavior in boys (Public Safety Canada). Therefore, it only leads to the trend of the child doing exactly what his or her parent did from generation to generation. In addition, according to the International Youth Survey, 56% of youth, who state that their parents never knew who they were with, had engaged in delinquent behavior during the past 12 months, compared to 35% of youth, whose parents did not always know who they were with, and 12% of youth, whose parents always knew who they were with (Public Safety Canada). I bet if someone asks juvenile delinquents in detention facilities if their parent had a high level of positive parental involvement, most will say no. If these ignorant parents would not pay more attention to their child’s activities, then incarceration may be the only real threat that frightens them.
However, opponents of the parental punishment laws try to convincingly pull a fast one saying, “You can’t be with them every moment of every day to ensure what they do. Some of it is just out of your hands” (Premier Online Debate Website). Because of that attitude, we have a high statistical rate of juvenile delinquents in Chicago. There should not even be a percentage of juvenile crime. If a parent raised their child right, they should have a family closeness, where his or her child can come home, discuss his problems, and find a rational solution together.
Peer pressure has been another excuse among juvenile delinquency, but if a child is raised right, he or she will know who to hang out with. I am not saying parents should tell their child who to hang out with, but if it is truly necessary, they should be fully aware of and get involved if their child is hanging with the wrong crowd. Even when a kid has no respect for their elders anymore, there are programs available to discipline these minors like boot camp and therapy. However, for these children to receive these treatments, the parent must know when his or her child is going down the wrong path and needs help.
In the murder of Autumn Pasquale, the parents of the killer, Justin Robinson, should have known that their son required discipline from previous criminal actions, which would have helped to avoid the death of an innocent victim. This case was used as evidence for why lawsuits should not be limited to the civil ones, but where parents of juvenile delinquents should be criminally liable in court with them. Mr. Pasquale claimed, Justin’s parents should have realized that their child “posed a risk to third parties” and needed to be treated for emotional, psychological and neurodevelopmental problems after witnessing domestic abuse in his home” (Kuruvilla). It is a solid example of what happens to children that are abused or neglected. These kinds of parents do not understand that whatever they do in front of or to a child, it permanently stains their developmental mindset. They grow up with traumas that many are not able to recuperate from. Robinson’s parents are to blame for Justin’s easiness to kill. Healthy children are not born killers, but made ones. "It's not the community, it's not the school. It's not the police department's primary responsibility to control your bad kids," Pasquale’s lawyer, Bonczyk said. "These kids were able to run wild in Clayton with little to no supervision by either of their parents, and raised in a way that is irresponsible. You need to take responsibility." The saying for bad parents, “I didn’t know” is the only valid response out there, because they truly did not know where their children were. They brought that innocent child into this world and let it turn into a delinquent in a society that is full of traps.
In the case of Christopher Lane, his death was decided by a group of unsupervised juvenile delinquents late at 3 AM. Granderson gives an excellent response to the annoying answers parents give after realizing their “angelic” children are severe criminals by saying, “Crying, ranting, proclaiming how great their children were despite being kicked out of school or previous run-ins with the law.” Now, these are a different type of parents. They believe that their child made a bad choice, and after a little yelling, they will learn their answer. This is where the saying “I couldn’t control it” is used loosely; they need boot camp so that they could straighten up their attitude on how to properly behave in society. If not, then, we need to hold parents more accountable, both culturally and legally, for the actions of their children. Maybe then, more parents will be more engaged in the lives of their children on the front end, rather than the back end, in front of a judge. I could not say it better myself. It is a positive threat that needs to be done to make sure change occurs.
In 2014, Chicago’s crime rate declined significantly in relation to the previous years, signifying that change is occurring indeed. Chicago annual crimes are 27,295 in violent and 113,323 in property per 1,000 residents. In the violent crime comparison per 1,000 residents, it says that my chance of becoming a victim in Chicago is 1 in 99 and in Illinois 1 in 241. Neighborhood scout says Chicago is safer than 8% of the cities in the US. Therefore, even if the Chicago’s crime rate did go down, many citizens in the community should know there is still much to do. As CBS reports, “the youth data follows the historic drop in homicides to 415, from the 503 that was the nation’s highest murder rate in 2012. Chicago also saw a 24% drop in overall shootings and 16% drop in overall crime”. Most of the adults committing the crimes were once juvenile delinquents, which means these crimes could have been prevented.
Chicago Public Schools witness the start of young violence and even if it did drop in 2013, more could have been done to prevent it. “Many underperforming schools, especially in Chicago, also deal with high levels of violence on a daily basis. Of the approximately 100 high schools in Chicago Five percent of schools reported at least 51 violent crimes in one year. This means that police are involved in violent conflicts at these schools on average close to twice a week” (Burdick-Will 345). These teenagers do not build up this anger on their own; they bring it to school based on what is going on at home. The school should call the parents and inform them of what programs are available to deal with reckless behavior. If they do not listen, then obvious signs of bad parenting are shown and any behavior down by the child afterwards should be punished on the part of the parent as well. After young participants in Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center in Chicago, Illinois are researched, Teplin says, “Perhaps nothing underscores our failure to reach and rehabilitate at-risk youth more than their vulnerability to an early violent death” (1586). We should not give up on juvenile delinquents. There is a way.
Between prevention and punishment, there is a way to involve parents into their children’s lives by making them not just civilly, but also criminally, liable by the law. For right now, Illinois’s Parental Responsibility laws state that parents of unemancipated minors (under 18) should pay a max of $20,000 plus attorney’s fees in Property Damage/Personal Injury, Institutional Vandalism, and Retail Theft. Although many states impose criminal liability on parents of juvenile crimes, there are states that have begun harsher civilly liable laws as a way of sneaking into criminal liability. The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention explains, “Colorado became the first State to establish the crime of contributing to the delinquency of a minor (CDM). Supporters of CDM statutes believe that the conditions within the family are the most predictive components of a child’s behavior and that it is the responsibility of the parents to provide sufficient positive guidance to children on the importance of adhering to the values of society at large” (Parental Responsibility Laws). It would be the perfect way to force these careless parents to take care of their children or suffer the consequence of jail time. I bet if parents were actually taking care of their children and developing family intimacy, there would not be unsupervised time or want for these teenagers to do criminal offenses. Illinois should take similar actions based on Chicago’s high crime rate. It would be the best way to drop significantly the rate.
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Granderson, LZ. "Negligent Parents, Lawbreaking Kids." CNN. Cable News Network, 01 Jan. 1970. Web. 09 Apr. 2014.
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