General and specific deterrence
Crimes committed by juveniles raise many concerns because if a child is able to commit a crime at an early age, then it is quite likely for the child to commit even serious crimes in adulthood. Studies have shown that juvenile criminals end up becoming criminals in their later stage in life. This has created the need to deter children and young adults from committing crimes in their adulthood. There are two main methods used to prevent people from committing crimes. They include general or indirect deterrence and specific deterrence. The concept of deterrence is based on two premises. The first one is that a criminal can be prevented from committing more crimes by imposing specific punishment on the individual. The second premise is that crime can generally be prevented by associating it with stricter punishment to make people afraid of committing the crimes. The two premises form the concepts of general and specific deterrence.
General deterrence applied to juvenile justice seeks to control delinquent behaviors through creating threats of punishments. This implies that if a child is cognizant of consequences associated with delinquent actions, then he or she will tend to avoid doing the actions. This is especially if the actions are against the law. The punishment or consequence will create fear to commit the acts. This concept explains why some teenagers or young adults will be motivated to commit delinquent acts while others will tend to avoid even under similar circumstances. General deterrence is effective especially when the consequences associated with crimes are heavy and strict. It also becomes effective if the guidelines are observed to the letter. The knowledge of heavy punishment when a particular crime is committed will keep one from committing that particular crime more compared to when the crime is associated with a less strict punishment. This is based on the assumption that it is easy to bear less strict punishments than it is to bear heavy punishments.
However, general deterrence cannot be effective under all circumstance. There are instances when it can fail to work despite the nature of consequences. One such instance is peer pressure. Children under the age of 18 are the biggest victims of peer pressure. Psychologically, they still under the process of development and self identity as a result, they may have weaknesses in making decisions. They can easily be influenced by group think. Therefore, if a child is with his or her peers and they want to go shop-lifting at a store, it is possible that the child will accompany the rest. Another instance where general deterrence can fail to be effective is when the child is under the influence of drugs. Drugs and alcohol are known to block people from rational thinking. Therefore a child or a person, in general, who cannot think rationally because of drug influence, is very likely to commit a crime.
Research has shown that when the punishment is increased in severity, it fails to have deterrent effect. But when it becomes certain that a punishment will have to be imposed on a crime, it deterrent effect is increased. Some studies argue that the use of heavy punishment may only be effective in juvenile cases but fail to work in crimes committed by adults. It is considered to be the least fair and least effective form of convicting criminals. However, one thing that is apparent is that severe and heavy punishment works on perfect with other individuals but seems ineffective with others.
Specific deterrence focuses on individual offenders. It is based on the assumption that if an offender is seriously punished for committing a crime, then it is likely that they will be convinced not to commit the crime again because of the harsh experiences they had to go through. Spending time in jail because of crimes committed can be a perfect punitive experience that will deter some juvenile offenders from repeating the deliquescent acts.
However, studies have also shown that such forms of harsh punishment do not have an effect on others. This implies that some juveniles would still be able to repeat a crime even after having served time in jail.
Specific deterrence can also take the form of incapacitation where the idea of jailing or punishing an offender is based on the assumption that it takes away their ability to commit the same offences again. Criminals, both juvenile and adults, are not put into prison so that they can be rehabilitated. Instead, they are put into prison so that they can be prevented from committing the same crime again. The underlying idea is not to make them experience the consequences of their actions but to keep them away from engaging in crime. This specifically works for habitual criminals or individuals who have been evaluated and confirmed to have intentions to engage in a serious crime such as murder. In such cases, it is only imprisonment that can incapacitate or deter the individual from committing a crime.
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General and specific deterrence
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