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Juvenile Delinquency and Punishment


The given paper is devoted to the investigation of the topical theme of juvenile delinquency and punishments provided to young offenders. The modern justice system considers this group to be more vulnerable and important for society and provides an altered approach to sentencing. However, this perspective might be considered unfair by adult criminals. In this regard, the given research revolves around the opposition juvenile vs. adults and touches upon the major concerns related to the issue. The background of the given question is provided and discussed. Moreover, the problems of ethics, age, and specific attitude are also touched upon. To support the basic assumptions made in the paper with clear evidence, the real contradictory cases are provided and analyzed. Altogether, the paper offers a detailed and comprehensive investigation of the most problematic aspects of sentencing and the provision of punishments both for juveniles and adults and the grounds that were considered when making a certain decision.

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Keywords: juvenile delinquency, adults, sentencing, the justice system, light sentence, ethics, law.


The modern world faces several various problems that result from the blistering evolution of society and the development of peoples mentality impacted by this process. The question of crime is one of these contradictory issues that could be considered topical nowadays. However, this problem is not new. For centuries humanity, has been trying to create an efficient approach that will be able to solve most existing problems and protect law obedient citizens from criminals. In these regards, the existing justice system could be taken as the result of these attempts as they contributed to the formation of the main ideas and principles per which the modern system functions. However, one should mind the ever-changing character of the environment and the appearance of the new challenges that threaten the modern society. For these reasons, the alteration of the existing justice system is crucial as it must be able to solve the new nagging problems. For instance, the sphere of juvenile delinquency is nowadays often discussed because of the increased level of crimes committed by young people.

Background. Literature review

Per the latest statistics, law enforcement agencies in the U.S. made an estimated 1 million arrests of persons under age 18 (Trulson, Caudill, Belshaw, & DeLisi, 2011) (9th reference). The above-mentioned data contribute to the understanding of the fact that the great part of the youth could be considered dangerous elements that threaten common citizens and have a pernicious impact on the further evolution of our society. Some sociologists describe a situation as catastrophic and tend to emphasize the necessity to find the appropriate solution for this nagging problem (Redding, 2003) (5th reference). However, the question is complicated by several ethical issues that arise while speaking about the problem of juvenile delinquency. Besides, children aged from 7 to 14 years are usually related to this very group. For this very reason, the modern law and justice system suggest another approach created in response to the peculiarities of the age. Lenient sentences and uncensorious attitude could be considered the main aspects peculiar to the given sphere.

Being rather logical and humane, at the same time, the given practice establishes a precedent as there are numerous problems related to the definition of a person, his/her categorization, and the choice of the appropriate standards. Cops, De Boeck, and Pleysier are sure that the focus on the given pattern might also result in the appearance of certain risk factors that could trigger the rapid rise in juvenile delinquency rates and precondition its further spread (2015) (1st reference). The feeling of impunity has a pernicious impact on young peoples mentality and makes them act in some perverted ways to prove their selectness and unusual status. For this reason, there are some sources that insist on the necessity of the reconsideration of this very approach because of several problems that might appear. Yet, deviations of the psyche are also one of these concerns. Therefore, Semel is sure that psychiatric disorders among youth might be preconditioned by the great attention given to their selectness and the emphasis on their unique importance (2014) (7th reference). In terms of the juvenile delinquency, it might mean that numerous deviant behaviors come from the lack of responsibility and even fear of punishment. Nevertheless, there are numerous perspectives on the given issue. The divergence of the approaches provides the basis for vigorous discussions and debates related to the topic.

Law and ethics

Ethical issues could be considered a major concern related to the sphere of juvenile delinquency. The fact is that there is the strong opinion that states that children and young people should be treated in another way using less severe laws and punishments. The existence of the given perspective contributes to the formation of the prejudiced attitude. Statistics show that the bigger part of judgments of conviction related to the given sphere are less severe that the same judgments related to the traditional sphere (Jordan & Freiburger, 2010) (3rd reference). However, the given approach undermines the basis of the justice system and law. For this reason, it could be considered a threatening tendency. It has been widely accepted that such issues as law and ethics should not come together as the fairness and severity of punishment might suffer. In these regards, there are numerous speculations in the sphere of juvenile delinquency as a young person could count on indulgence.

Besides, the ethics of the modern society recognizes children and young people as the main contributors to its evolution. The given idea could be considered logical. However, it also creates the basis for a certain misbalance and shift of priorities towards the reconsideration of the value system and creation of a certain approach that would excuse any fault or misbehavior. The given model also preconditions the appearance of the conflict between law and ethics. DeLisi, Angton, Behnken, and Kusow admit that in case the modern tendencies will preserve, the society will face the great problem related to the rise of crime (2013) (2nd reference). These criminals will derive from young people raised in accordance with the new value system that appreciates their freedom and provides mild punishments for them. For this reason, the unreflective shift of priorities towards ethical issues might be dangerous; however, most people still consider children to be irresponsible for their actions because of the lack of understanding and social experience and several lawyers use it and try to obtain lenient sentence (Semel, 2014).

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Juvenile delinquency

The problem is also topical due to the great switch in the system related to the persons movement from being a minor to being an adult. The difference in one day could have the great impact on the final sentence as per the existing laws a person of majority age could not count on the indulgence even if he/she was minor yesterday. The law states clear difference between a minor and major person and treats him/her in accordance with the suggested approaches. Nevertheless, this commitment to principles might result in numerous misunderstandings and extremely severe sentences for people who do not deserve them. One realizes the fact that one day does not change a person completely, and he/she remains the same child. Nevertheless, the law proclaims this difference extremely significant and applies the rules and laws as established.

Furthermore, given approach to the classification of criminals could be considered rather new. As stated above, the evolution of human thought and approach to children had been altering during the evolution of our world. Societies of the past had their own understanding of justice and provided equal punishments for both children and adults (DeLisi et al., 2013).). However, the improvement of the conditions under which people lived and the shift of priorities towards the appreciation of human life preconditioned the creation of a new pattern and the rise of juvenile delinquency. Yet, the ambiguousness of its nature has given ground to numerous debates and doubts related to the efficiency of the given approach. The opponents of the given practice underline the unfair distribution and provision of punishments and stress the idea that the given alterations to the law make it less efficient and decreases the level of trust to it as people do not feel that they are given equal conditions. For this very reason, there are numerous claims that appeal to reconsider the existing system and create the most flexible approach.

The problem of age

The problem of age is now new for the given system as there have always been vigorous debates related to the above-mentioned attitude towards the determination of crime and definition of minor and major persons. Attaining years of discretion, a person also obtains the legal status and should be ready to assume responsibility for all his/her actions. It means that the law will not be merciful anymore. The given practice is one of the basic elements of any society as it guarantees law compliance and security for all members of society. Yet, there is another perspective related to the given question. The age could not be considered the main fact that determines the courts attitude to person, especially if he/she has recently achieved it (Tufts & Roberts, 2002) (10th reference). Furthermore, there is also a tendency to assume that the psyche of a child is not able to admit the alterations that happen to and individual and accept the changed character of responsibility at a short period (Semel, 2013).

Adaptation to new responsibilities and conditions is a long-termed process that should be given great attention. For this reason, an individual should be guaranteed some extra time to understand the new conditions and demands. However, the law does not provide this opportunity and classifies a yesterday child as an adult and provides severe punishment for him/her. Therefore, another perspective on the problem of the determination of age explores this problem and states that if the pattern that is used nowadays fails to provide the fair classification, the necessity of its implementation should be doubted. In other words, there is no need for the creation of a certain dividing line that should be applied when cogitating about the provision of a certain punishment to an offender. In this regards, the question of the usage of special rules and approaches for a certain person becomes central for the sphere of juvenile delinquency


Nevertheless, the modern justice system has a set of laws that regulate the functioning of the coherent society and provide punishments for adults who break the law and pose a threat to well-being and security of common citizens (Tufts & Roberts, 2002). All practices and procedures that refer to the given sphere could be taken as severe measures needed to control the level and number of crimes. Speaking about the sentences given to adults, one should admit the fact that they result from the existing laws and approaches. The modern justice system could be considered the result of the long-term evolution of this institution and that is why several practices and rules have their own history and traditions. There are no ethical questions related to the usage of these very punishments as society has accepted their necessity and efficiency.

Mainly due to this fact, most sentences provided to adults do not give rise to vigorous debates. Yet, the existence of the alternative approach to the classification of crimes and the possibility of the provision of the milder sentence might undermine the attitude towards the existing system. For instance, now a grown-up offender might be suggested some other sort of sentence or even the approach the whole case only if he/she suffers from some mental problems or there are certain mitigating circumstances (DeLisi et al., 2013). At the same time, the existence of the altered approach and the shift of priorities towards the uncensorious attitude to young people might trigger the growths of dissatisfaction with this pattern among criminals who are sentenced in accordance with other laws. For this reason, the problem becomes especially significant when comparing the conditions provided for adults and young people. The convergence in perspectives on the necessity of altered punishments and sentences might also bring some uncertainty to the sphere of traditional law and its functioning with adult offenders.

Young offenders

Yet, the situation is different when it comes to the sphere of juvenile delinquency. Blistering evolution of the main humanistic ideas resulted in the significant reconsideration of the main values appreciated by the coherent society. In this regard, children became the most important part of any community as they determine its future and impact the further development. It is obvious that these shifts in mentality conditioned the appearance of the new approach to children which implied the uncensorious attitude and creation of the most comfortable environment (Redding, 2003). These tendencies also impacted the sphere of law and resulted in the appearance of the category of juvenile delinquency. It is focused on cases and crimes committed only by citizens who are not major.

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The nature of the given sphere and the increased importance of humanistic values predetermined the development of less severe punishments and sentences. Additionally, there is also the tendency to involve parents and provide various measures for them as they are responsible for their child. This practice could not but give grounds for some discussion. One obviously recognizes the fact that adults bear responsibility for children and they should be ready to protect them and provide with the conditions beneficial for their growth and evolution. However, there is also some problem that comes from the given approach. If a child commits a crime, he/she is taken as not responsible for it and his/her parents should be ready to pay fees and suffer from a certain punishment. In other words, a child becomes the reason that makes adults suffer from the unfair penalty or punishment. For this reason, the given approach poses a certain question whether a person who is responsible for a child should also bear responsibility for his/her actions that break the law and undermine the basis of the functioning of our society.

Children vs adults

Besides, comparing these various aspects of the justice system, one admits a great number of significant differences that provide the basis for vigorous discussions. The fact is that some of the juvenile courts’ procedures reflect an effort to balance these the main concerns related to the issue and provide the fair punishment. However, statistics show that these attempts are not rather efficient as the bigger part of young criminals still obtain light sentences (Mann & Reynolds, 2006) (4th reference). At the same time, adults and major people often suffer from the biased attitude and are given severe punishments. This misbalance also conditions the evolution of practices aimed at using various loopholes in the law to qualify the severity of the sentence and use penalties prepared for young people (Spiranovic et al. 2011) (8th reference). Furthermore, as stated above, there is another problem related to the given sphere as young people who have just reached the needed age, should be judged in accordance with all laws and rules applied to majors.

Juveniles as adults

Besides, if today a person is considered a minor and tomorrow an adult, the rules and laws are applied as established. This sentence describes the existing problem and results in the appearance of numerous cases when a sentence is not fair and results in the significant deterioration of the court and the whole systems image. The fact is that very often a person who is on remand suffers from this very approach. He/she might become major in terms of the given court. However, they are to be judged in accordance with the severe laws. There is also another tendency when young people commit serious crimes counting on mercy and special attitude that results from their unique status (Redding, 2003).

Analyzing the given practice, it is also possible to admit the fact that these differences and problematic concerns pose a great threat for the further evolution of the justice system as it results in the appearance of several unfair sentences. It could not but undermine the basis of the justice system and pose a great threat to the existing pattern that regulates relations between criminals and the law. The usage of these loopholes might precondition the failure of the existing system and the significant rise in the crime rates. Furthermore, the further deterioration of the situation related to the existing tendency to given even more attention to young offenders could be predicted. In case the altered and mild sentences are applied in terms of juvenile delinquency, the divergence in perspectives will become even more obvious and the appearance of a certain conflict could be predicted.

Cases analysis

For these reasons both adherers and opponents of the existing practices have rather strong arguments to protect the existing pattern and promote its further evolution. There are numerous specialists who are sure that the modern approach promotes the evolution of responsible attitude and contributes to the creation of a certain barrier between the youth and crime. Hence, there is also the point of view that states that the difference in one day should not be considered the main degerminator of a persons age especially when it comes to sentence. Yet, there are also several controversial cases that might be used to support one or another point of view.

For instance, the case of AL artiste on H.C. implied the similar situation (“Recent Court Cases”, n.d.) (6th reference). At the period, criminals were under 18. This fact conditions the necessity of the usage of the special laws and rules related to the sphere of juvenile delinquency. However, now the defendants of the given case are major persons who must accept the responsibility and obtain fair punishment. Besides, the complex character of the case gives rise to several various concerns. One of them is whether it is necessary to consider the criminals age as one of the mitigating factors or it is vital to sentence them resting on their status. Nevertheless, the court decided to provide severe punishment for both offenders, introducing 77 and 50 years’ imprisonment (“Recent Court Cases”, n.d.). It becomes obvious that it acted in accordance with the existing laws and ignored the fact that the main actors were under 18 now of crime. The case also evidences the imperfection of the whole system. As stated above, now of the crime, criminals were under 18. However, due to the long-term character of the process they attained majority and were punished without regard to their age at that moment.

Nevertheless, there is another case that could be used as a good example to demonstrate the problematic character of the given issue. Defendants were both seventeen-year-old people who were convicted of special circumstance murder (“Recent Court Cases”, n.d.). Besides, the comparatively low age of these young men did not have any impact on the court as they were both sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility to parole (Recent Court Cases on Extreme Sentences for Youth, n.d.). The given case proves the idea that there are many various aspects that might impact any case expect the age of the main. defendants. The life imprisonment could not be considered the penalty that is often used in the sphere of juvenile delinquency. In this regards, the given case could be considered the great evidence of the existence of numerous problems related to the sphere of juvenile delinquency as very often children are treated like adults and obtain severe punishments.

These controversial cases provide the ground for numerous debates. Defendants advocates appealed against the courts decision insisting on the unfair character of the sentences and highlighting the age of the main figurants. However, their attempts were not successful.

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It is possible to conclude that the existing justice system is not perfect as it admits the existence of various approaches to the same issues. Analyzing the sphere of juvenile delinquency, it is impossible not to admit several problems that result from the existence of the strict line between minor and major persons. Per the modern laws, one day could play the great role and condition a great switch in the system. The analyzed cases prove the fact that the given approach could hardly be taken as the efficient one as very often young people might be taken as adults. Additionally, another significant problem is related to the ethical side of the given question as the coherent society considers children the main value which should be protected. That is why there is a special attitude towards this very group which impacts most sentences and results in the increased importance of the creation of the new practice that will be able to change the existing situation and guarantee the appearance of the new approach that will be able to consider all aspects and provide real and fair punishments. Yet, now the given concerns remain topical for the modern justice system.


Cops, D., De Boeck, A., & Pleysier, S. (2015). School vs. mail surveys: Disentangling selection and measurement effects in self-reported juvenile delinquency. European Journal of Criminology, 13(1), 92-110.

DeLisi, M., Angton, A., Behnken, M., & Kusow, A. (2013). Do adolescent drug users fare the worst? International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, 59(2), 180-195.

Jordan, K., & Freiburger, T. (2010). Examining the impact of race and ethnicity on the sentencing of juveniles in the adult court. Criminal Justice Policy Review, 21(2), 185-201.

Mann, E., & Reynolds, A. (2006). Early intervention and juvenile delinquency prevention: evidence from the Chicago Longitudinal Study. Social Work Research. 30(3), n. pag. Web.

Redding, R. (2003). The effects of adjudicating and sentencing juveniles as adults. Research and policy implications. Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice, 1(2), 128-155.

Recent court cases on extreme sentences for youth. (n.d.). Web.

Semel, R. (2014). Strengths and limitations of the personality inventory for youth (PIY) in juvenile delinquency assessments. SAGE Open, 1-12.

Spiranovic, C., Roberts, L., Indermaur, D., Warner, K., Gelb, K., & Mackenzie, G. (2011). Public preferences for sentencing purposes: What difference does offender age, criminal history and offence type make? Criminology and Criminal Justice, 12(3), 289-306.

Trulson, C., Caudill, J., Belshaw, S., & DeLisi, M. (2011). A Problem of fit: extreme delinquents, blended sentencing, and the determinants of continued adult sanctions. Criminal Justice Policy Review, 22(3), 263-284.

Tufts, J., & Roberts, J. (2002). Sentencing juvenile offenders: comparing public preferences and Judicial Practice. Criminal Justice Policy Review, 13(1), 46-64. Web.

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