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Juvenile Recidivism

Juvenile Recidivism

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Juvenile recidivism is the term for children under eighteen-years-old who habitually commit crimes.

  • Juvenile habitual offenders often have mental issues that cause a repetition in criminal behavior.
  • Recidivism is a serious issue for young children and teenagers because minors lack the intellectual capability and responsibility to stop acting out in illegal and violent ways.
  • Juvenile recidivism is a serious societal problem because young people who commit crimes usually exhibit these negative behaviors during their adult years.

The juvenile criminal justice system involves status laws with regard to youth. Status laws involve "such misbehavior as truancy, running away, and sexual misconduct" (p. 33). Consequently, youth who live in terrible home environments where they are physically or sexually abused may become labeled as juvenile delinquents because of their problems, not because of criminal actions. The legislature should find alternative ways to deal with these kinds of problems so that the child does not get involved with the criminal justice system because he or she has been victimized or suffered from other trauma. Alternative methods with regard to status offenses may substantially reduce the rate of juvenile crime.

There are many risk factors that can cause juvenile recidivism. The main factor seems to be problems with family and parents. Juveniles without two strong parents and a loving, organized family structure are more likely to commit crimes before adulthood. Another major factor is criminal behavior in the family. Children with criminal parents also seem to be more likely to be repeat defenders. The most disturbing trend is criminal recidivism and its link to psychopathy. Many repeat defenders are psychopaths who gain immense gratification from criminal behavior. Psychopaths have aggressive impulses that often lead to dangerous behavior. Juvenile recidivism is clearly an important societal problem that warrants extra attention.

Local jurisdictions in the United States are concerned with treating juvenile recidivism to reduce overall crime rates. Children who spend time in juvenile detention facilities are much more likely to commit crimes as an adult than other children. Research has shown a strong indirect relationship between the effectiveness of parenting and the strength of familial and social bonds with the tendency of individuals to become juvenile delinquent. This supports the increase in juvenile crime from the early 1960s through 1995-1996 as a direct result of the disintegration of the family unit and the increase in single-parent households. However, there is no support for the emergence of a "Super Juvenile Criminal" as a result of the increase in crime and violence among youth; in fact, there is conclusive evidence that shows that although there has been an escalation in extreme juvenile violence as discrete independent cases, juvenile delinquency as a whole has been on the decline since 1996.

Interestingly, some status offenses do not have high recidivism rates. For example, for juvenile delinquents who commit sex offenses, there is very little likelihood that these individuals who commit sex crimes as adults. Part of the reason for this is because many sex offenses are more along the lines of sexual misconduct rather than sexual victimization. So, juveniles are sometimes convicted of sexual crimes that would not be considered criminal activity if they were adults. There should be some effort to distinguish between sexual misconduct and sexual behavior that involves violence and victimization. Those juvenile delinquents who are charged with sexual misconduct would probably require less treatment and rehabilitation than other sexual offenders who require intensive psychological therapy.

In terms of reducing the crime and recidivism rate of juvenile delinquents, the first step is to ensure that the individual is indeed a criminal. As noted above, well-meaning programs and status offenders may appear to identify juvenile delinquents, when actually they are not. Juvenile delinquents should be youth who break the law and commit crimes, the same kind of crimes that adults can be accused of.

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Juvenile Recidivism research papers discuss what causes children under eighteen-years-old to habitually commit crimes.

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