Juvenile Delinquency In Global Context

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The focus on Juvenile Delinquency or Youth Offending behaviour has been a recurrent issue that has dominated public and political discourses around the world (Baligar, 2014 & Farrington-Douglas & Durante, 2009), with its origins being traced back to London’s Report of the Committee for Investigating the Causes of the Alarming Increase in Juvenile Delinquency in the Metropolis in the 1800s (Committee in to Juvenile Delinquency, 1816). Since then, Juvenile Delinquency has become an increasingly complex issue globally, with many countries around the world reporting incidents about violent youth behaviour (Tan et al., 2013 & Krug et al., 2002).

Current global statistics have highlighted a downward trend in youths arrest and conviction rates in the past two decades, yet many countries worldwide still consistently report high rates of violent youth offending annually (Li et al., 2019 & Fagan & Catalano, 2012). In 2009, the USA reported that Juvenile represented 16 percent of their annual number of arrests, highlighting that approximately 86,000 of these youth were arrested for committing violent crime (Fagan & Catalano, 2012 & Mapp, 2009). Specifically, in 2015, the World Health Organization reported that approximately 200,000 youth homicides occur among individuals aged between 10-29 years old, with the main perpetrators being youths themselves (Li et al., 2019, WHO, 2015 & Krug et al., 2002). Furthermore, recent crime victimisation surveys in the USA coupled with self-report data report a high degree continuity of such behaviour among a small percentage of youth (Young et al., 2017 & Smith, 2008) These were replicated across the world in places like Australia, report a rise in the amount of violent offences committed by youth residing in densely populated urban areas despite reductions in juvenile arrest rates in 2013 (Young et al., 2017). Consequently, in the context of this global decrease in youth arrest rates, these evidences suggest that youth are increasingly committing violent crime, with a large number of these crime being disproportionately contributed by a small group of chronic offenders (Young et al., 2017, Farrington-Douglas & Durante, 2009 & Smith, 2008).

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Dealing with Juvenile Delinquency

Similarly, these complexities are reflected in the attempts to reduce Juvenile Delinquency across the years. These strategies are subsumed under the wider discourse surrounding crime prevention (Hollin & Palmer, 2006), particularly exemplified through debate between “nothing works” and “what works” stances in 1970s. Consequently, this resulted in the emergence of two mutually opposing strategies towards the reduction of offending behaviour within the juvenile justice discourse, classified as being eliminative or constructional in nature (Farrington-Douglas & Durante, 2009 & Hollin & Palmer, 2006).

Eliminative strategies focused on deterring and restricting youth’s opportunity to offend through the implementation of coercive punishments like harsh penalties and prison regimes, and intensive surveillance programmes like electronic tagging and curfews (Hazel, 2008 & Watts, 2003). In contrast, constructional strategies focused on the implementation of early intervention programmes which addressed these criminogenic risk factors through the development of cognitive, behaviour and interpersonal skills of the youth. Therefore, promoting alternatives to crime (Fagan & Catalano, 2012, Farrington-Douglas & Durante, 2009 & Hollin & Palmer, 2006).

Researchers proposed that these strategies represent conceptual frameworks in understand juvenile justice systems in the world. This is based on the notion that each country’s juvenile justice discourse can be characterized along a continuum of wanting to promote conformity to the law, with eliminative strategies at one end while constructional ones located on the other (Farrington-Douglas & Durante, 2009 & Hazel, 2008). Consequently, this resulted in a myriad of juvenile delinquency programmes around the world; with countries like the USA endorsing harsh zero-tolerance policies and electronic monitoring programmes towards juvenile offending (Tan et al., 2013 & Munchie, 2008), while other countries like India adopting a more welfare-based policies which focus on training and provision of guidance to prevent reoffending (Baligar, 2014), or in the UK which has adopted a hybrid of both strategies with their establishment of “youth offending teams” and “offenders brought to justice” targets reflective rehabilitative and punitive agendas respectively (Farrington-Douglas & Durante, 2009).

Singapore context

Similar to the rest of the world, the problem of Juvenile Delinquency is a key area of social concern in Singapore. In 2010, due to the increase in the number and seriousness of juvenile offending, the Singapore Police Force listed youth’s involvement in crime as one of the main priorities it seeks to tackle (Tan et al., 2013 & Ong et al., 2000). Ever since then, studies have highlighted a decrease in juvenile arrest rates across the years. Recently, the Ministry of Social and Family Development reported that approximately 1,057 youth were arrested in 2016. Furthermore, when comparing between total juvenile arrest rates between 2017 and 2018, the Singapore Police Force reported a decrease of 231 juveniles arrested (Li et al., 2019 & Singapore Police Force, 2018). Despite this decrease, researchers still highlight that the number of youths arrested still accounts for one-fifth of the youth population in Singapore and roughly accounting for 16 percent of the total number of individuals arrested in 2018 (Singapore Police Force, 2018 & Tan et al., 2013).

Typically, youths are commonly arrested for shop theft, theft; in 2005 this accounted for roughly 31 percent, 17 percent the total number youth arrests respectively (Tan et al., 2013 & Ang & Huan, 2008). Furthermore, recent reports have included other crimes like sexual penetration and cheating offences, with cheating offences accounting for 81.7 percent of the total crime committed by youth in 2018 (Singapore Police Force, 2018). Apart from these, reports from the last decade highlight that youth are beginning to engage in increasingly serious and violent behaviours like murder, causing grievous harm, armed robbery, unlawful possession of weapons, the distribution and consumption of illegal substances (Tan et al., 2013, Chan, 2010 & Tam, et al., 2007). In 2010, reports highlighted that 4176 youths were arrested for assault, rioting and loan shark-related offences, with 78 percent of the rioters reportedly having ties with a gang (Lim et al., 2012).

Currently, the main legislation governing the administration of Juvenile Delinquency in Singapore is The Children and Young Persons Act Chapter 38 (CYPA). The CYPA aims to provide welfare to youth in need for care and protection and offer rehabilitation options for juvenile in conflict with the law (Ekman, 2015 & Kamal, 2002). As such, Singapore’s response to Juvenile Delinquency is based on an equilibrium between eliminative and constructional strategies. This is rationale is based on the beliefs surrounding the individual’s capacity for change, thus focusing on rehabilitative efforts which offer alternatives to criminal offending to youths-at-risk and reintegrative programmes which aid in the development of skills which prevent juveniles from re-offending (Zhang, 2008 & Kamal, 2002).

Problems associated with Juvenile Delinquency

The problem of Juvenile Delinquency causes issues at many different levels within society. On a personal level, studies highlighting that the youth involvement in violent offending is associated with negative life consequences during adulthood like substance abuse disorders, negative health and educational outcomes, lack of social relationships (Salvatore & Rubin, 2018 & Fagan & Catalano, 2012). Additionally, Tan et al. (2013) highlights that early engagement in juvenile delinquency is correlated to the increasingly violent forms of offending in the future. As such, this coupled with the negative life outcomes associated with criminal offending, perpetuates a cycle of criminality in the lives of youth (Fagan & Catalano, 2012).

On a community level, Juvenile Delinquency has serious negative implications on the safety and security of the society. Studies highlight that youth homicide and non-fatal assaults is one of the leading causes of premature deaths among youths globally and have detrimental impacts on the life chances of victims who survive (CDC, 2019, Farrington-Douglas & Durante, 2009 & Krug et al., 2002). These effects are also not isolated among youths and have implications on wider community; increasing public anxiety surrounding the fear of victimization, thus impacting the livelihood of individuals in the society (Tan et al., 2013 & Farrington-Douglas & Durante, 2009).

Lastly, studies highlighting the costly nature in dealing with the effects of Juvenile Delinquency. In the USA, injuries associated with Juvenile Delinquency accounted for approximately 21 billion dollars’ worth of medical costs and productivity loss (CDC, 2019 & Li et al., 2019). As such, Juvenile delinquency has greatly increased the costs incurred in the healthcare and welfare sector within society and resulted in the development of costly ineffective crime prevention programmes in society. This disrupts the provision of essential services and has the potential to undermine the economic stability within the country (Farrington-Douglas & Durante, 2009 & Krug et al., 2002).

Problems within Juvenile Justice Discourse

Firstly, despite the ubiquity of the term in the global discourse and the long-standing nature of the issue, there is still a lack of a universal conceptualisation for juvenile delinquency (Smith, 2008 & Hamzah et al, 2004). Internationally, the United Nations (UN) defines juveniles as individuals aged between 15-24 years old (UN, 2010) Despite this, the minimum age of criminal liability varies globally between 6-18 years (Young et al., 2017), with places like India and England placing it at 7 and 10 respectively, while other countries like Yugoslavia and Belgium defining it at 14 and 18 respectively (Baligar, 2014, Sijerčić-Čolić, 2009 & Goldson & Munchie,2006). Specifically, for the case of Singapore, the CYPA defines juveniles as individuals ages between 7 and 16 years old (Chan, 2010 & Ang & Huan, 2008), while other sources like the National Youth Council (NYC) defining youth as ages between 15- 35 years old (NYC, 2018). As such, for the purposes of this study, I propose a possible framework towards understanding Juvenile Delinquency in Singapore comprising several key characteristics: 1) individuals between the ages of 7 to 35 years old 2) who commit statute offences and/or 3) display violent or non-violent antisocial behaviour and/or 4) experience any form of risk factors associated with criminal offending.

Secondly, though countless efforts have been taken to reduce Juvenile Delinquency in Singapore, recent cases like the Downtown East Murder still highlight the severity of the Juvenile Delinquency issue in Singapore and the ineffectiveness in dealing with it (Tan et al., 2013) Farrington-Douglas & Durante (2009) highlights that current methods regarding the management of Juvenile Delinquency increases youth’s contact with the criminal justice system. This results in attachment of labels and subsequent stigmatization of delinquents; reducing the life chances and severing relationships between youths and supportive networks in society (Salvatore & Rubin, 2018 & Tan et al., 2013). As such, this current trend of increasing youth’s contact with the criminal justice system has two-fold implication in society; cementing youth’s persistence in criminal offending (Farrington-Douglas & Durante, 2009) and affect the stability of the country as these youth represent an integral part to the future development of society (Tan et al., 2013 & Mapp, 2009). As such, researchers have increasingly called for shifts towards the development of community-driven programmes (Ekman, 2015 & Fagan & Catalano, 2012), focusing on factors which promote positive youth development rather than addressing criminogenic risk factors; with one such factor being religion (King & Furrow, 2004 & Knudten & Knudten, 1971).

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Juvenile Delinquency In Global Context. (2022, Jun 09). Edubirdie. Retrieved June 16, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/juvenile-delinquency-in-global-context/
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Juvenile Delinquency In Global Context [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Jun 09 [cited 2024 Jun 16]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/juvenile-delinquency-in-global-context/
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