Juvenile Delinquency Prevention – Research Paper


Juvenile delinquency prevention is a concept that focuses in safeguarding children and teenagers from being involved in crime before they consider engaging in crime. According to Greenwood (2008), there are various reasons to prevent young people from being involved in crime or from continuing to be involved in delinquent behavior. One of the most apparent reasons is that delinquency subjects a youth at risk for injury, drug dependency and use, early pregnancy, school drop-out, adult criminality and incarceration. Redeeming youths from crime saves them from wasting their life. In addition to this, it has been established that majority of adult criminals start their criminal career as children. Thus, preventing delinquency blocks the adult criminal career onset and thus, lowering the crime burden on society and on crime victims.

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Both adult and delinquent offenders take a hefty toll both emotionally and financially on taxpayers and victims who have to share the costs. To fight this cost, most criminal justice systems have been working hard to define the most effective delinquency prevention and treatment programs, after high level of inefficiency in the past programs such as DARE among others. The prevention programs focus on addressing biological and environmental factors that influence youths’ tendency to engage in crime. The treatment programs try on addressing acquired or/and biological behaviors and traits to prevent past offenders from reoffending. The main challenges experienced by most of these programs is that some of these factors are hard to change or control, especially without community support (Greenwood, 2008). This paper reviews fundamental principles in delinquency prevention and treatment. It also assesses different delinquency prevention and treatment programs, evaluating their level of effectiveness.

Juvenile Delinquency Prevention

Delinquency prevention can take place in two levels which include primary and secondary delinquency prevention. Primary delinquency prevention is based on the principle of identifying environments or individuals at danger for delinquent activity prior to the occurrence of the behavior and then either strengthening the risk factor resistance or removing risk factors. The effect of this kind of an approach is established by the accuracy of risk factors identification process and the choice of where and when to direct the intervention. The primary delinquency prevention programs target the youth general population and they include efforts to prevent teen pregnancy, drug use and smoking. The program application in this case need to determine at what stage of life of the targeted individual will be the prevention program is likely to be more viable and hence successful. To establish high level of accuracy, one needs to balance the accessible knowledge regarding the extant approaches efficacy, the practical constraints of specific intervention strategies, and the policy and ethical constraints of centering on specific social institutions or groups (May, Osmond & Billick, 2014).

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The secondary prevention are programs which try to rehabilitate youth that have demonstrated early behavioral problems indications, though they have not been formally grouped as delinquent yet, or those who have not demonstrated a longstanding antisocial behavior pattern. In most situations, youths who have had a single or more encounters with the police though have not yet been arbitrated by the juvenile court.  These programs also target teenagers at high risk for a specific outcome such as violence or delinquency, a group which may include individuals in disadvantaged neighborhood, those who are experiencing violence and abuse at home, and those struggling in class (Greenwood, 2008). Rather than being troubled by the early risk predictors for later delinquency, secondary prevention programs normally rely on a comprehension of factors which distinguish between children that show temporary behavior issues and those who are probable to persist in taking part in antisocial behavior. The programs stress on changing the current behavior issues before resulting to more grave criminal behaviors (Mulvey, Arthur & Reppucci, 1993).    

Different forms of Delinquency Prevention Programs and their Efficiency

There are a number of delinquency prevention programs in both primary and secondary levels, but with different levels of efficiency. This section reviews a few examples and their level of efficiency.

Perry Preschool Program

This is an early childhood intervention program that helps in protecting children at high risk of delinquency from becoming criminals in the future. The program involved 1 to 4 years old children from low socioeconomic families, majority being black Americans. Every child participant was offered about 12 hours of per week of preschool education for a period of seven and half months every year for two years. The educators were in addition needed to carry out weekly home visits which would last 90 minutes (May, Osmond & Billick, 2014). The home visits focuses on both the child and their parents, especially mothers. The participants were then given a follow-up at different ages in life which included 40, 27, 19 and 14 years. When contrasted with those who did not take part in the program, participants of Perry Preschool Program demonstrated a substantial reduction in life time and adult criminality at all-time based on the research results. The follow up at the age of 40 demonstrated that just 28% of the program participants had been jailed compared to 52% of the control group. The model of Perry Preschool Program thus became the base model for developing curriculums targeting low-income families by Head Start programs. The Perry Preschool program was also found to be cost effective. The individual cost in this program is $14716, resulting to $ 105000 saving per participant (May, Osmond & Billick, 2014).

Cognitive-Behavioral Interventions

Cognitive-behavior interventions (CBI) are founded on the notion that behavioral disorder that include substance abuse and juvenile delinquency can yield from an inability to maintain and develop positive social associations as a result of social skills deficits. CBI can either be described as behavioral social-skills-training (BSST) and interpersonal cognitive problem solving (ICPS) programs. ICPS programs center on processes that include social cues interpretation and intentions of others, creating alternate solutions to situations of social problems, and assessing the possible results of various solutions, as well as means-end thinking. BSST programs center on teaching a particular behaviors that include fighting peer pressure joining a peer group, giving compliments and accepting criticism. However, majority of programs integrate both aspects of BSST and ICCPS. The two are introduced in school curriculums and offered in small groups of students ( Mulvey, Arthur & Reppucci, 1993). With regard to efficiency cognitive behavioral intervention or therapy has been approved after demonstrating exceptional performance in around 58 studies conducted to investigate its effectiveness.  CBI has been found to lower the rate of offending for the participants by 25% which is significantly high compared to other methods (Greenwood, 2008).

Family Support Intervention

One of the delinquency risk factor is unstable family where the child is subjected to violence and abuse, or in a family with very poor socioeconomic status. In such situation, a child is likely to develop emotional and behavioral problems due to psychological distress and life pressure. In this regard, family based intervention is one of the most effective measures that can be employed to prevent delinquency. Family support intervention entails offering an extensive range of social support services that include counseling, medical care, day care, referrals to other agencies of social services and family needs assessment. Family intervention program may start at birth up to 30 months of growth for children born of low income families. This includes 30 months of psychological services to the mothers especially those who get their first born in a low income families, child care pediatric care and social work (Mulvey, Arthur & Reppucci, 1993). A follow up program for children taken in from birth up to 30 months five and 10 years after demonstrated positive effect on both children and parents involve, in contrast to a matched comparison group. The program boys at age 12.5 were less probable to demonstrate pre-delinquent behavior issues such as truancy and negative teacher rating, compared to other boys.  Family based intervention and therapy programs are said to reduce the rate of committing crime by 12.2%.  This implies their application is highly significant (Greenwood, 2008)

Juvenile Delinquency Treatment

Juvenile delinquency treatment focuses on teenage who have already had an encounter with the police and been convicted from ever going back to the criminal justice system. The main aim is to try and change their behaviors, their perspective of the world, and their ability to survive in the community without thinking of criminal ways to survive. The main principle behind juvenile treatment the character, behavior or whatever reason propagated committing of crime in the first place and focus on neutralizing it to ensure that this does not push released youths into reoffending. The program thus range from anger management for those in jails or probation to reduce working in impulse, behavioral control, feeling the painful consequences of own act among other thing. Below is a review of some of the measures employed to treat juvenile who are already engaged in crime for the first time to avoid reoffending.

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Multisystemic Therapy (MST)

MST is an intensive community- and family-based intervention for notorious juvenile offenders wherein young offenders get to have weekly meeting with two to four therapists, together with their families at school or home for three to five months. MST centers on community, individual, school, family and peer risk factors which contribute to development and growth of youth antisocial behaviors. MST needs measurable, concrete effort from both families and youths, and builds on strengths of youths in lives while changing problematic interaction with peers and family. The program keeps the serious juvenile offenders in the community but under strict supervision. Based on the research, MST is one of the most effective programs in treatment of juvenile offenders (Henggeler, Clingempeel, Brondino & Pickrel, 2002). A research conducted to assess the rate of recidivism among juvenile offenders four years after being treated using MST demonstrated that low rate of reoffending, around 22.1%. This is regarded to be significant especially when compared to individual therapy group of participants who were said to have 71.4% rate of recidivism. The most interesting part about MST is that even participants who were engage in a practical program were able to reduce their recidivism rate to 46.6% which is still lower than those who went through individual therapy program. Based on these results, it is thus more effective to initiate MST intervention to juvenile offenders while still in the community than incarcerating them. In addition MST is found to be cost effective where by the net MST program cost was $4743 per participant, saving a total of $131 918 for every participants. Its level of efficiency is thus considerably high (May, Osmond & Billick, 2014).

Restorative Justice

Restorative justice is a program used to treat juvenile delinquency. The program in based on two competing juvenile delinquent treatment theories; restoration and punishment.  One of the main goals of this program is to reinstate justice to the community and victim by confronting or punishing the offender to make him or her feel the consequence of his or her actions. The structure permits for some therapeutic measures for juvenile delinquent, which includes talking responsibility for committed crime and accountability (Weatherburn & Macadam, 2013). Nevertheless, the approach is said to be single-dimensional, to be short with each participant only being offered just a single session with facilitator of the program.

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As a result, juvenile delinquent learns very little regarding being pro-social. The program only focuses on the crime, giving higher priority to the victim rather than focusing on addressing delinquent behavior. The main critique of this program is that it might fail to reduce the rate of reoffending in all kind of crimes and hence it does not play any tangible role in reducing the rate of crimes in the society. RJ program is only said to result to a significant future criminality reduction amongst first-time, male offenders who were below 14 years of age. Chances of reoffending were highly influencing on the initial age an offender was while being introduced to RJ.  This means older children will likely reoffend even after taking RJ program. Nevertheless, the program is said to be much better compared to detention (Weatherburn & Macadam, 2013).

Community-Based Treatment       

Community based treatment is one of the most effective and feasible juvenile delinquency treatment approach discovered in the last few decades. Juvenile offenders’ community based programs has increased since the development of juvenile delinquency prevention act and initiatives.  Some of community based treatment approaches include different degrees of community probation, which can range from residential placements to minimal supervision and which may slightly differ with regards to community access from placements institution and atmosphere. A dispositional alternative is restitution which has become popular recently. Restitution entails either the accused young offender paying directly to the victim as a way of compensating the victim for the loss, or carrying out an equivalent measure of public service.  Restitution programs sometimes entail direct mediation between victim and the offender. The restitution popularity mirrors three main justice systems trends which include centering on personal responsibility for the crime, a developing concern on victim’s right and obscuring of variation between civil and criminal law (Araki, Braunschweig, Conant & Dabel, 2003). Restitution program are regarded to be effective since they leave a victim more satisfied for the punishment given or compensation received. The research also shows that two of four restitution programs lower recidivism by two to three years following the treatment as contrasted to control group. However, research has revealed other important data such as lack of any significant difference between restitution conditions with counseling and without. Those who refuse restitution to probation were also found to have same rate of recidivism compared to restitution offenders.  The performance of community based in terms of efficiency can thus be regarded as fair.

Aspect of Prevention and Treatment are Similar and Different

The main similarity between prevention and treatment of juvenile delinquency is that they are both driven by similar goals. The two aim at streamlining the life of the probable juvenile offender or an offender to prevent them from being entangled to crime and destroying their life. They both also focus on reducing the cost burden of supporting a youth offender in the criminal justice and correction center to adulthood, which is quite expensive. However, prevention does so by preventing those at risk from being vulnerable while treatment does so by trying to ensure that those who have already been in the crime trap do not reoffend (OJJDP, 2000). The two programs center on similar approaches which are based on individual, families and community intervention measures and they are all defined based on identified risk factors.

The main difference between delinquent treatment and prevention deprograms is that, prevention can target children even in their early childhood, while treatment normally focuses on older children, who have the strength and courage to commit a crime. While prevention can take place at the targeted audience own setting, treatment may be restricted by the laws of criminal justice, and the mostly happen at an authorized place, sometimes with supervision or restriction of the delinquent youth. Justice system laws and restrictions must be considered and they highly guide on the measure to employ.  Another major difference is that the efficiency in prevention program is measured based on the rate of first involvement with police while treatment efficiency is measured based on the chances of re-involvement with the police or justice system.

General Importance of Prevention and Treatment, why they are necessary and their Level of Inter-Relation The research has identified that there are risk factors which increase chances of children being involved with justice system today or in the future. These factors mostly include things beyond a child control for instance abusive family, poor socioeconomic status, birth characters, and the neighborhood. This simply means the rate of crime would reduce if all children are born in a good, stable home environment, with enough income to cater for all child’s needs and rights. However, this is not possible and as a result most of children involved in crime are forced by their current or previous life situation. It is therefore logical to help such children from wasting their life as prisoners in criminal justice system, by helping them to cope with their situation and acquire skills to help them survive without engaging in crime. It is also important to ensure children with emotional and behavioral issues associated to their birth or history are able to control them so ensure that they live well with others and to protect them from encountering with police. Thus prevention and treatment are important since they help disadvantaged children from being dominated by their circumstance and offer them a way to have a better future. They also help in preventing losses in the government revenue due to high maintenance of people in the justice system and also in developing a crime free society. The juvenile delinquency prevention and treatment program are interrelated in that they both aim at correcting youths with intention of protecting them from crime.

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