Photo by Trinity Kubassek

Society has gradually become harsher. Between the declining environment and an increase in overall crime probability, it’s no surprise society has slowly become harsher. As an extreme consequence, these conditions might have birthed an increase in juvenile offenders.

“The tragedy here is that the gunman is too young to be called one because he’s 15 years old.”

Crimes are a growing problem, but more so when committed by juvenile offenders. By then, there’s an additional problem of where and how these individuals should receive intervention, and above all, why there are growing events of violence among and carried out by children.

Defining Juvenile Offenders

“Kids will be kids.”

Adults often use this sentiment to justify children committing mistakes. To a certain extent, it’s true. They’re still learning to navigate the world and might occasionally stumble through their development stages. But does this mean they can commit crimes and be absolved of the consequences that should’ve come with their destructive and questionable decisions?

By definition, juvenile offenders are teenagers or even younger children who break the law by committing crimes. These crimes are often heinous enough that it’s unfathomable how they’re done by children, whom society may usually associate with innocence and purity. Unlike adults, the youth are still considered immature and unable to ponder the consequences of their actions entirely. This makes them prone to committing mistakes or crimes. But this nature shouldn’t justify the extent of their wrongdoings, which often are deemed severe.

What Makes Youth Delinquents

Juvenile offenders do more than doorbell ditching or throwing mayonnaise at people and acting like they’re pigeon poop. To these individuals, these pranks are merely childish. Some of these offenses can be serious, including theft and murder. However, society may often fail to consider that these children don’t commit these acts randomly and for no reason. They don’t wake up one day and think of violence. Instead, they may be shaped toward opening themselves to violent patterns by their environment and those around them.

According to the book on the constructive critique of old paradigms about adolescence by Alfred Kurland, society has reached the point of a decline in favorable circumstances experienced by the youth. But this is due to its outdated and destructive beliefs and ideals about these individuals.

This may be derived from society’s misunderstanding of the adolescent identity and the avoidance of providing them with opportunities for growth and development. A perfect example of this is the lack of proactivity from adults to give teenagers social and moral training. Instead of reaching out and molding them into proper adults, the youth are often left to fend for themselves and learn about life. They’re prevented from making significant interactions with others and society, leading to them not understanding proper engagement and respecting the laws.

Delinquents and Damnation

Society has shaped people to condemn criminal offenders. After all, their behaviors are done on their own accord. They decide to perpetrate immoral acts. Hence, they should deserve to suffer regardless of their age. And they do. Society has set laws that protect people from these delinquents.

Under particular circumstances, juvenile offenders can serve 15 years, depending on their crime. Despite claiming that juvenile courts exist to provide a chance to change, reflect on their mistakes and make better choices, locking up teenagers for years might not necessarily do the work.

The youth can still be expected to change when exposed to the right environment, given that their brains are still developing until adulthood. While some of these teens act tough and grown-up, they’re far from maturity. Research says the brain doesn’t fully mature until age 25. Before this ripe age, adolescents might as well be considered children as they will be imperfect and will need supervision and guidance toward the right path.

Hence, in the debate of condemnation and second chances, where should juvenile offenders belong?

Delinquents and Second Chances

How does one determine whether these delinquents deserve to suffer from the consequences of their decisions or should be given a chance at redeeming themselves?

While it’s established that they’re prone to mistakes, external factors, and improper guidance might have only shaped their behaviors, this doesn’t necessarily mean the youth will be open to change. This openness to improve and change their lifestyles and beliefs will remain unique to individuals. Hence, how does society know whether to take risks at intervention or lock them up?

The rule of thumb should be followed.

While expecting change can be futile, it won’t be dissatisfying. Punishing kids that hurt society might not lead to the appropriate outcome everyone wants. Instead, this might only lead to further damage.

These adolescents need excellent and effective rehabilitation – the chance to redeem themselves. This won’t teach them to abuse the concept of second chances but to comprehend that bad decisions caused by trauma, poverty, or violence don’t necessarily define them. They can still improve, and change will always be accessible.

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