Saturday, December 1, 2012

Juvenile Delinquency and Its Future Propositions

Several concerns have been proposed over the years about the future of juveniles and juvenile justice; some have demonstrated successful turnouts and some have not. As revisions continue to be proposed by members of juvenile justice and by authoritarian figures in society, the future of juveniles lies in the hands of our law makers. Juvenile justice is an important instrument to the criminal justice system, such as important decision- making that will contribute to future outcomes but it is also used to eliminate future deviance. Other than intervention programs and suggested resources that have been recommended by officers or by criminal courts, the future of juveniles should be determined by pro-active programs that are located near rural/low-income areas or in an educational environment. These programs should promote an external motivation, a specific focus that will eliminate the pleasure of committing criminal acts. Some suggest that pain and pleasure are parallel to one another this leads to the ultimate thrive of adapting a criminal characteristic. The division of these two should be alienated, and the focus of pain should be greater than the concept of pleasure. As several suggestions have been analyzed through different perspectives, Edward Mulvey and Anne-Marie Iselin authors of Improving Professional Judgments of Risk and Amenability in Juvenile Justice, propose potential community risks which can be controlled through juvenile justice; “The dual requirement to ensure community safety and promote a youthful offender's positive development permeates policy and frames daily practice in juvenile justice.” And explains that; “Balancing those two demands, explain, requires justice system professionals at all levels to make extremely difficult decisions about the likely risk and amenability to treatment of adolescent offenders” (Mulvey & Iselin , 2088).
Although juvenile crime is not a relaxed discussion neither cannot be easily controlled, the efforts to continue a positive solution to juveniles and reform the juvenile system may eliminate deviance for future crimes. We must be able to comprehend the needs of both members, the community and the offender.  Three suggestions have been proposed through the principles of Edward Mulvey and Anne-Marie Iselin. First, there is a need for more reliance on actuarial methods at detention and intake that would promote more efficient and reasonable screening of cases for ensuing courts involvement (Mulvey & Iselin , 2088).  Second, the use of structured decision making by probation officers could provide more consistent and valid guidance for the court when formulating dispositions (Mulvey & Iselin , 2088). Finally, implementing structured data systems to chart the progress of adolescents in placement could allow judges to oversee service providers more effectively (Mulvey & Iselin , 2088).
One aspect the juvenile system fails to overlook is the intervention of juveniles and community based programs. Perhaps a suggestion that can be made is, allowing juveniles to feel as though they have a position in society by allowing them to join prevention programs that are located in their communities. Although direct supervision should be implied, at times juveniles feel as though they have little importance to society, and assigning responsibilities can help eliminate free time. This may not guaranteed total justice for the community and the juvenile system, but the ability to keep this suggestion open allows for quicker corrections to be made and future planning. It is difficult to conclude a definite solution to end juvenile violence, we must treat every delinquent as a case-by-case situation, and not every offender will need the same type of resources to completely transform. The making of potential laws promote the intention to reform or improve juvenile justice, some have taken initiative to propose harsher demands in youth courts. They also become a daily discussion for members in the correction and probation/parole system. The New York Times illustrates current juvenile update on what should be done to assist juveniles in our present world, “Structure and personal attention are the priorities. Nearly every moment of the day is filled with counseling, school time, meals or recreation” (Brandi Grissom, 2012). These types of encouragements should continue to be part of the juvenile system, not only to offenders who are at higher risk. Juvenile justice continues to reform its policies and regulations to protect what is known as the ultimate goal, to keep society safe. Essentially, harsher punishments and a lack of resources can allow “unintended consequences” to occur allowing severe outcomes to take place in the future of juvenile crime.


Brandi, Grissom. (2012, Sept. 1). Giving juveniles intensive counseling.
          The New York Times . Retrieved from

Mulvey, E., & Iselin , A. (2088). Improving professional judgments of
risk and amenability in juvenile justice. The Future of Children , 18(2), 35-57. Retrieved from

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Juvenile Conformity of Labeling Theory

More than often, juvenile delinquents are stigmatize with a negative labeling by the members of their society. The members of their social groups establish a negative label accordingly to the infractions of the delinquent, in which is influenced by a deviant behavior. The concept of labeling juveniles with a negative label is to associate a loss of status from civilization. Indicating that they are unworthy of carrying a title of their citizenship. The labeling theory is one of the fundamentals of the social learning theory in which deviant behavior is caused by social and/or environmental pressures, and a “negative label” in society condemns the behavior. Howard S. Becker, an American sociologist that concluded in his study that deviance is socially constructed, explains the factors of deviance in a sociological perspective. Several proposals have been made as to why juveniles proclaim a deviant identity, the social learning theory in its standard definition propose that society is responsible for the deviant act. The Labeling Theory is one of the various criminological and sociological perspective in which deviant behavior becomes the factor of the crime and then analyzed by its core principles.
Howard S. Becker’s proposition of labeling theory emerges specifically from the relativistic perspective as he defines the act of deviance. He argues that, “...the essence of deviance is not contained within individuals’ behaviors but in the response others have to these”; “Deviance, he claims, is a social construction forged by diverse audiences” (Becker, 1991). It is an unaware reaction that social groups form in order to identify deviance but unknowingly, deviance is created by society. Juveniles have the tendency to be influenced voluntarily by their environment, as they engage in a process of learning and growth, they soon comply with a specific group in society, whether it supports a deviant group or not. More so, Becker is identifying the response of people rather than the act itself (Becker, 1991).
Numerous definitions from society can conclude a deviant act. The variations in the degree of deviance arises due to the temporal or historical context framing the acts, which gives an overall perspective to the social position and power of those who are affected by the behavior itself and its consequences (Becker, 1991).  Labeling a juvenile is the consequence of their actions, as mentioned before; it is the core assessment that is used to reinforce the loss of status in society. Asserting the idea that society has opened the doors to commit such deviant acts. Rules that have been brought upon civilization to control social order and protect each individual citizen from internal factors that constitutes harm. Becker also claims, “…social groups create deviance by making the rules whose infraction constitutes deviance…”(Becker, 1991).
Rules and regulations that are imposed in society become “…the product of someone’s initiative…people who exhibit such enterprise as moral entrepreneurs.” (Becker, 1991). A perspective that analyzes the labeling theory by two related species- rule creators and rule enforcers (Becker, 1991). These perspectives intake as much importance as to why juveniles are labeled wrongdoers in society. Rules and regulations in society must first be upon existence before enforcing any act as deviant. Becker makes this principle a point in his argument by also stating that once a rule has come into existence it must be applied to particular people. “Offenders must be discovered, identified, apprehended and convicted…” (Becker, 1991). This process of discovery occurs after the rule has been imposed and acts as the enterprise of the behavior.
The labeling theory is important in juvenile justice because we must establish a comprehensive understanding as to why juveniles are carrying a negative label in society. In order to do so, identifying the infractions committed by juveniles, it will assist in classifying their deviant behavior. There is no justification for any crime that is committed by a juvenile or an adult but studying their environment and social atmosphere can assist in explaining their behavior. Becker argues about two main points in which the labeling theory is associated with the delinquent; he proclaims that members of society socially construct deviance and that a sort of rule-breaking behavior occurs in order to bear a negative label. Establishing a negative stigma to the delinquent only supports continuous deviant behavior. They quickly adapt to their norms and later it becomes part of their lifestyle instead of an outburst of unusual deviant acts. Juveniles also develop a master status in society, the majority of the time the crime is not identified but the act is considered an unwelcome contribution to society.   


Becker , H. S. (1991). Outsiders . (pp. 317-324). Adult Publishing Group

Becker , H. S. (1991). Relativism: Labeling Theory . (pp. 41-45). Adult Publishing

Friday, October 26, 2012

Juvenile Crime: An Overview of Environmental Perspectives

Several fundamentals can cause juveniles to commit crime, one of those fundamentals is acknowledged as the environmental perspective.  The environmental perspective is closely tied to the social learning theory of deviance. Juveniles are not only exposed to social factors, which enhances criminal activity but influences of environmental factors that constitutes to criminal activity.  Our perspective of “crime” is essentially different from an environmental perspective, which not only focuses on the elements of the crime, such as biological factors, social forces and/or development experiences that create an offender (Wortley & Mazerolle, 2011). These factors are analyzed through the object of interest, which is crime. “ The offender is just one element of a criminal event, and how offenders come to be the way they are is of little immediate relevance” (Wortley & Mazerolle, 2011). We turn the focus from solely rehabilitating the offender to the dynamics of crime -- where did it happen, when did it happen, who was involved, why did they do it, and how did they go about it? The aim of the environmental perspective is to prevent crime, not solely focusing on a cure to restore offenders (Wortley & Mazerolle, 2011). Understanding why juveniles commit crimes outside the scope of their institution can be explained through the three premises of the environmental perspective.
Juveniles are highly influenced by their immediate environment. The environmental perspective depends upon the principle that all behavior results from a person-situation interaction (Wortley & Mazerolle, 2011). The environment does not only play an initiating role to crime but also in shaping it. Criminogenic individuals that suggest their environment as a reason to commit the crime influence crime activity.  The environment is not only used as a setting to commit the crime or a destination but a vital tool to influence deviant behavior. Most juveniles spend more time socially interacting with members of their society in a form to impose improper behavior; the environment becomes one of the countless tools in initiating corruption.  Some of the on going issues in which the environment presents itself as a negative factor in the lifestyle of a juvenile is through, drug use, mental health problems and/or educational, employment or family problems (Richards, 2011).  
A juveniles’ inability to remove themselves from their surrounding challenges is difficult for a juvenile, and committing the crime is easier then dealing with their problems. Perhaps this is a mechanism that is commonly used for juveniles that live in dysfunctional homes or environments. The effort to get themselves out of the “situation” becomes challenging and greater than the effort to not get caught by law enforcement. “Youth violence remains a topic of social concern. Communities characterized by high rates of family disruption, unemployment, concentrated poverty, and inaccessibility to economic opportunities appear to be particularly vulnerable to youth violence” (MacDonald , Bluthenthal & Golinelli , 2009). In certain circumstances, youth court focuses on restoring the juvenile by negotiating prevention programs in which the juvenile engages in educational or family restoration instead of punishment. The environment becomes a person-situation interaction in which behavior is influenced by the offender to commit the criminal act because of their daily challenges that become inevitable to prohibit.
Another observation of the environmental perspective is the distribution of crime in time and space. Which is considered to be a non-random factor. Behavior is dependent upon situational and patterned aspects to the location of criminogenic environments (Wortley & Mazerolle, 2011). When it comes to juvenile crime their time and space is not focused solely upon risk, but upon crime opportunity and other environmental features that facilitate criminal activity (Wortley & Mazerolle, 2011). The denotation of crime changes from the act of committing the crime to illegitimate opportunities (Cloward & Ohlin, 2004).  Theses opportunities become a learning factor for the juvenile and a form of systematic procedures that contribute to criminal activity.  Opportunity becomes the motive to commit the crime rather than the purpose. Richard A. Cloward and Lloyd E. Ohlin asserted the theories of learning and performance structures of juvenile delinquency proclaiming; “Our use of the term “opportunities,” legitimate or illegitimate, implies access to both learning and performance structures. That is, the individual must have access to appropriate environments for the acquisition of the values and skills associated with the performance of a particular role, and he must be supported in the performance of the role once he has learned it ” (Cloward & Ohlin, 2004).
The environmental perspective declares that the purpose of crime analysis is to identify and describe crime patterns (Wortley & Mazerolle, 2011). Patterns of crime are highly recognized throughout specific regions; essentially they are identified through the motion of learning and performing factors. The environment not only becomes an instrument to learn and perform deviant behavior, but also promotes patterns of commonly committed crimes in specific regions that can be used to prevent future crimes. A study that consisted a system of mapping juvenile crime in a neighborhood in Chicago established theories that supported specific areas of youth violence; “Early research by Shaw and McKay (1942) on juvenile delinquency in Chicago neighborhoods found stable patterns of localized juvenile offending over time. This research also found a consistent correlation with aggregate community measures of poverty, residential instability, and the heterogeneous ethnic composition of neighborhoods” (MacDonald , Bluthenthal & Golinelli , 2009). The study of Shaw and McKay expanded the factors of juvenile crime patterns in specific environmental areas. Theses areas were identified to be high in poverty and high in dysfunctional environments.
“Changing the criminogenic aspects of the targeted environment can reduce the incidence within urban communities and the effects on criminal activity and other forms of social disorder” (Wortley & Mazerolle, 2011). Comprehending the role of the environmental perspective in which factors such as patterned crimes are identified, the distribution of crime in time and space, and the influence of immediate environmental aspects are categorized to constitute deviant behavior in juveniles. Solutions to prevent crime from environmental influences must be induced by crime prevention practitioners and interested groups to concentrate resources on particular crime problems in particular locations (Wortley & Mazerolle, 2011). Prevention to the crime will assist criminals to withdrawal from criminal activity and perhaps recognize their deviant acts. When the opportunity to commit the crime is removed, learning and performing becomes a disadvantage to the criminal role. It no longer becomes a pattern nor an opportunity of time and space. Although the focus of juvenile delinquency is to reform and rehabilitate the offender the focus of the environmental perspective is to prevent crime. This concept was adapted and accepted by the environmental theorists because recognizing the location of the crime enables the enforcement of awareness in that specific location, essentially preventing corruption.
Once the opportunity to commit the crime is removed social order becomes relevant and the social learning theory is able to act in accordance with the offender to rehabilitate and restore skills that will be useful to succeed in society. In general, the theory of “learning” is either influenced through environmental aspects or social influences, which becomes the tool in assisting criminal activity. The behavior is reinforced through deviant performances, which is established through a system of patterns and social interactions. Juvenile deviance is affected through several exterior sources and social disorders; the environmental perspective is classified as one exterior source that promotes deviance in society.   


Cloward , R. A., & Ohlin , L. E. (2004). Delinquency and
            opportunity . (3rd ed., p. 285). Long Grove, Illinois:
            Waveland Press, Inc.

MacDonald , J., Bluthenthal , R., & Golinelli , D. (2009). Neighborhood effects on crime
            and youth violence . Santa Monica, California : RAND Coporation. Retrieved

Richards, K. (2011). What makes juvenile offenders different from adult offenders?.
            Australian Institute of Criminology , Retrieved from

Wortley, R., & Mazerolle, L. (2011). Environmental criminology and crime analysis.
            (p. 2). New York, New York: Routledge Taylor and Francis Group Retrieved
            =PP5&dq=juvenile crime and environment

Monday, October 8, 2012

Life Sentences: As a Tool To Deter Juveniles

The justice system has revealed over the years that it has improved; but still encompasses flaws that require reconstruction of sentencing regulations. Perhaps relocating a juvenile to an adult prison is not the appropriate path to educate nor to rehabilitate a juvenile. In the case of T.J Parsell, an article featured in The New York Times, he claims that on his first day in prison as a juvenile, he was drugged, gang raped and turned into sexual chattel (Slotnik, 2012). In what circumstances does it make it right for a juvenile to intake this type of violence? It is unfortunate that this is common in the prison system, but I disagree that a juvenile should be sent to adult prison regardless of their crime. Their punishment should be fulfilled in a juvenile system, where their age, size (proportion of body weight), or crime is not discriminative. In an adult prison, juveniles are more likely to be targets of violence and constant manipulation by experienced offenders; which becomes not only a burden but also a disadvantage to the individual.
Intellectual development of a juvenile differs tremendously to that of an adult cognitive thinking, life experience, self-knowledge, and growth of a juvenile lacks to that of an experienced adult.  “At the time I was sent to prison, for robbing a Fotomat with a toy gun, I was still a boy- physically, cognitively, social and emotionally - and ill equipped to respond to the sexualized coercion of older, more experienced convicts” (Slotnik, 2012). As Mr. Parsell reflects among his experience in adult prison, reality is, that juveniles are still considered “children”, their behaviors may be deviant to society but essentially they do not comprehend or interpret similar conceptions of life compared to an adult. It is a matter of re-analyzing the situation and the outcomes it will for set in their future. Furthermore, a defect with this regulation in sentencing juveniles to adult prison is the ability to learn new methods of intellectual “street” knowledge and the simple concept of violence. This encourages innovative violence and continuous deviant behavior, preparing delinquents to become chronic and experienced offenders.
The purpose of a judicial hearing for juveniles in an adult court is to deter and prevent their deviant behaviors from reoccurring. In most cases this is not accurate. Members of congress argue that sentencing juveniles to adult prison has not indicated successful turnouts. Instead juveniles appreciate the opportunity of gaining knowledge from other experienced convicts; allowing them to be precise and skilled in their behavior. An act of interpersonal knowledge which is communicated by reassurance is measured to be the most qualified skilled of interpretation.
Over time, juvenile regulations become further harsh and severe in the justice system. “Pennsylvania prisons have nearly a quarter of the nation’s approximately 2,100 teen lifers because state sentencing laws give judges only two options for anyone convicted of first-degree murder: a death sentence or life in prison without parole” (Dale, 2012). This was issued in the news article titled, Pa. man, sentenced to life as teen, seeks release, which demonstrates the veracity of juvenile justice in our current world. According to The New York Times, data indicates that Pennsylvania is the top state to obligate juveniles to serve a life sentence without parole for certain crimes regardless of age; 444 are serving life without parole, 18 of those lifers are between the ages of 13-14 years old, and an estimate of 25% of juveniles will never get to appreciate or understand the quality of life ("Sentencing juveniles," 2011). Sentencing regulations can be inconvenient to the justice system and a potential danger to society. Education and rehabilitation must be the first method of transitioning juveniles back to society, disregarding those juveniles who do not seek change. We should be able to differentiate juveniles from adults, regardless of their intentions to commit the crime. Society should open an opportunity of second chances.   


Dale, M. (2012, 07 02). Pa. man, sentenced to life as teen, seeks release Deseret News ,
            Retrieved from

Sentencing juveniles (2011, 04 20). The New York Times , Retrieved from

Slotnik, D. E. (2012, 06 08). When should juvenile offenders receive life sentences?. The
            New York Times , Retrieved from

Friday, September 14, 2012

Juvenile Delinquency

Social Learning Theory and Juvenile Crime: A Criminology Perspective

One immeasurable issue that continues to affect our justice system seems to be inevitable among our society; juvenile crime is a dynamic factor in our community in which affects our everyday lifestyle. By engaging ourselves in this issue, we can familiarize what causes deviant behavior, and can put into perspective the elements of the social learning theory. This concern is highly important because if we are able to understand why juveniles decide to commit crimes, we can prevent juveniles from committing future crimes. Their act of deviance may lead to severe or heinous crimes as adults, if it is not addressed in the early stages of adolescence. One may ask, what is identified as “deviant” behavior? A term commonly defined with several interpretations by society. The principles of criminology defines “deviance” as a violation of societies norms, an intended non-judgmental, neutral concept encompassing behavior and characteristics of people that are subject to condemnation or stigmatization within a social system (Jenson, 2011). This is not a simple issue and may not be resolved immediately, but the effort of every agency and authorized individual should part take in this matter in order to assert a less violent society.  The ideology of recidivism should encourage the focus of juvenile crime in our society, instead of predicting deviant behavior we should propose deterrent methodologies.
The Social Learning Theory derives from the perspective that criminal behavior is learned (Wesly G. & Ronald L., 2011).  A form of social association influenced by environmental reinforcement. What is the correlation that connects social learning theory and juvenile delinquency together? Richard A. Cloward and Llyod E. Ohlin, authors of Delinquency and Opportunity, reflected on the theories of Edwin H. Sutherland a criminologist that proclaimed,  “… that opportunity consists at least in part, of learning structures. Thus ‘criminal behavior is learned’ and, furthermore it is leaned ‘in interaction with other persons in a process of communication’ ” (Cloward & Ohlin, 2004). The act of deviance is influenced and learned by imitating or modeling deviant behavior, which in most cases are negative reinforcements. This causes corruption in our communities. An incident that occurred on September 5th, 2012 in Placer County which involved two adults and three juveniles; the juvenile’s ages were between fourteen to fifteen years old; according to my understanding, a little too young to be involved with the justice system. They were arrested for suspicion of robbery and conspiracy ("Officers arrest two," 2012).
Sutherland also presents the idea of “illegitimate opportunity” which draws attention to, “…conditions favorable to the learning of such a role (differential associations). These conditions, we suggest, depend upon certain features of the social structure of the community in which delinquency arises.” (Cloward & Ohlin, 2004).  How can we identify this explanation of delinquency in our community?  In the Sacramento Bee newspaper that was featured on September 14th, 2012 discussed the incident of an 11-year old child that was taken into custody for physically abusing his elderly mother, medical records indicated that his mother was suffering from a disability (Hubret, 2012). He is facing charges of elderly abuse and assault with a deadly weapon. The juvenile had an illegitimate opportunity to commit a crime and with the condition of a learning role, which in fact lead him to proceed with his crime.  Juvenile crime is committed under the influence of a learning system; a juvenile is more influenced by the community and the social criterias of delinquency. An article called Social Learning Theory, which was featured in The Handbook of Deviant Behavior by Wesley G. Jennings and Ronald L. Akers, reflecting upon the theoretical origins and framework of the social learning theory presented by Sutherland, claiming that the principle part of the learning of criminal behavior occurs within intimate personal groups and a process of communication (Wesly G. & Ronald L., 2011).
 One assumption that can be made is that the majority of juveniles live in broken homes and neighborhoods where crime is a common norm to society. In some instances the criminal role or behavior is accepted and reinforced. Of course this is not the issue in all cases, but Cloward and Ohlin propose that, “Only those neighborhoods in which crime flourishes as a stable, indigenous institution are fertile criminal learning environments for the young” (Cloward & Ohlin, 2004). There is no solid element which enforces the product of learning criminal behaviors, although several factors effect the progress of a potential criminal and its learning environment, the social learning theory is one of the many explanations why juveniles become delinquents. 


Cloward , R. A., & Ohlin , L. E. (2004). Delinquency and
            opportunity . (3rd ed., p. 285). Long Grove, Illinois:
            Waveland Press, Inc.

Hubert, C. (2012, September 14). Lawyer appointed for elk
            grove boy accused of abusing disabled mom. Sacramento
            Bee . Retrieved from

Jenson , G. (2011). Deviance and social control. New York, New
            York: Routledge Retrieved from
            fOkVShSrJKIC&oi=fnd&pg=PT71&dq=definition of
            deviance in criminology&ots=sZTOe-

Officers arrest two adults, three juveniles following armed
            robberies in placer county . (2012, September 06).
            Sacramento Bee . Retrieved from

Wesly G., J., & Ronald L., A. (2011). Social learning theory.
            New York, New York: Routledge Retrieved from
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            sutherland and deviant