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Saturday, February 15, 2014

Week 5 Paper - Foundations of Criminal Justice

Juveniles and You (JAY), Gang Violence, and Juvenile Delinquency - Recommendations
  1. Case Summary
JAY has entered the public eye as the result of a horrific series of crimes committed by a JAY program participant, Jeff Baker. Baker carjacked a vehicle using a gun, went to a girlfriend's house, murdered her parents, and kidnapped the girl. During the course of the investigation, it was revealed that the murders were conducted as part of a gang initiation. Media attention to the case has resulted in another murder as a rival gang sought to gain public attention as well. JAY becomes a focal point as we examine how this program and others like it have affected juvenile crime rates. We will also examine public attention to this case as shaped by popular myth, and the realities compared to the myths.
  1. Myths pertaining to juveniles in the community and how they can be addressed. Is the theory of juvenile superpredators real or a myth?
Although there is a public perception that juvenile crime rates are sky high, the truth is that juveniles commit 6% of violent felony crime committed in the U.S. (Crime in America, 2010, para 2). The community exaggerates juvenile crime in light of the decline of serious youth crime. The rate of youth offending per 100 ages 12-17 dropped from a high of 52 in the early 90's to 6 in 2011 (ChildStats, 2013, Table 1). This is a decline of 88%. One possible explanation for this drop in juvenile crime is that lawmakers in the early 90's embarked upon a series of reforms that changed the approach to juvenile justice. Piquero and Steinberg found that "during the 1990s . . . legislatures across the country enacted statutes under which growing numbers of youths can be prosecuted in criminal courts and sentenced to prison...today, in almost every state, youths who are 13 or 14 years of age (or less) can be tried and punished as adults for a broad range of offenses, including nonviolent crimes" (2007, p.1).
The categorization of certain violent juvenile offenders as “super-predators” is a redundancy compared to the description of violent adult offenders as predators. In addition, Dilulio never objectively defined what a superpredator is (Pizarro,Chermak, & Greunewald, 2007, p.90)
  1. Is the juvenile justice system too lenient or too harsh on juveniles, especially, those who commit violent crimes?
The answer to this question varies from state to state, and from case to case. Buck-Willison asserts that "juvenile justice today clearly represents a mix of punitive and rehabilitative approaches and that states vary dramatically in the extent to which they lean toward greater punitiveness or rehabilitation" (,2010, para. 1). The concept of justice demands that we must be harsh with violent offenders. In some cases, we are too lenient . The juvenile justice system is designed to be rehabilitative. Unfortunately, this does not work as well as we would like it to work. A New York State Office of Children and Family Services [OFCS] study of recidivism showed that 49% of program participants were re-arrested within 1 year of release, and that 66% were re-arrested within two years of release (2013, p.2) . The criminalization of status offenses is certainly too harsh. In this case, Baker's history shows us that he was effectively sentenced to be raped for the status offense of curfew violation. We can also see measures that are too harsh in many “zero-tolerance” initiatives. For example, there are several cases of pathetic school officials having children arrested for “doodling” on their desks (Chen, 2010).
  1. How can we structure the juvenile justice system to avoid injustice and oppression of juveniles? Does the juvenile justice system have prejudicial overtones? How can these be addressed?
    1. Juveniles must be categorized to prevent association and treatment with more serious offenders. Holman and Ziedenber discuss the process of “peer deviancy training,” and noted that issues with juveniles in detention “may include negative changes in attitudes toward antisocial behavior, affiliation with antisocial peers, and identification with deviancy”(2006, p.5). Specific recommendations to mitigate “peer deviancy training”are as follows:
      1. Status offenders must be grouped with status offenders, not with juvenile non-violent criminal offenders
      2. First time status offenders, in general and unless there is a serious problem with the parenting ability of the caretakers, should be released after the details have been recorded.
      3. Non-violent criminal juvenile offenders must be separated from violent offenders
      4. Non-violent juvenile offenders of victimless crimes and repeat status offenders should be separated from juvenile offenders of property crimes
      5. Violent juvenile offenders should be tried as adults, but housed separately from adult offenders
    2. The juvenile justice system needs to make more of an effort to determine cases in which the parents will be responsible for their children, and be discriminate in cases in which parens patriae is deemed necessary. Holman and Ziedenber also mention that many juveniles “age out of delinquency” (2006, p6)
    3. A standard of guidelines similar to Truth in Sentencing guidelines, but considering the goals of juvenile justice, should be adapted in order to lessen prejudicial punishments.
  2. What can be done to control the youth gang violence in the community? How can children be dissuaded from committing crimes and forming crime gangs?
Gang members should be rolled up under RICO auspices. This becomes more imperative in situations similar to how the Baker case unfolded. Gangs are organizations formed on the basis of violence; Wood and Alleynet cite Klein, Weerman, and Thornberry and state that ”it is a universal given that street gang membership facilitates violent behavior (2009, p.10) as conditions make make violence more likely, police preemption can protect the community before more crime is committed. Aggressive patrolling in areas where gang activity is prevalent is also necessary. The policing agency responsible for juvenile crime must devote resources to intelligence gathering, especially in areas of social media. Arnold, O'Gwin, and Vickers examine the efforts of the Salinas Police Department's intelligence analysis in regards to anti-gang policing, emphasizing social network analysis (2010, pp.119-151) Juvenile gang officers should work in conjunction with anti-gang activities in general. Juveniles should be dissuaded from gang romanticism by “shame programs” in which gang members are publicly depicted in humiliating circumstances; these circumstances should include situations in which gang members are hospitalized, crying, dead, homeless, and outcast. The juvenile system must ensure that these suboptimal results are clearly understood by youth to be the result of participating in gang/criminal activity. Although such “shame” programs would be attacked on political grounds as “cruel and unusual punishment”, there is already legal precedent as in publishing the names and addresses of DUI offenders. Ensure that adult members of gangs that are currently on parole or probation violate the terms of their release by associating with juvenile members of the gang, thus removing authority figures from the gang environment.
  1. What obstacles must be overcome to create a viable “back to society” rehabilitation program, which includes educational and vocational components?
The first step, as noted above, is in determining which juvenile offenders are eligible for rehabilitative programs. Unless the juvenile justice system has determined that the parents are unfit to discipline the children, the state should avoid parens patriae as much as possible. Repeat status offenders, juveniles that commit victimless crimes, and first time property offenders should be served justice in a rehabilitative program. This could help alleviate the recidivist behavior referenced in the OFCS study above. Repeat property offenders should be dealt with in a punitive manner, and violent offenders should be dealt with in the adult system, except in the case of separate incarceration. School disciplinary matters should be dealt with by the school system, and not by the police. Educators that cannot handle that responsibility should be identified and removed from the educational system.
  1. What is the best possible outcome of the case for the community?
Jeff Baker should be tried as an adult for his violent crimes, and if convicted, executed. He has proven himself to be a predator, not as a person who can take the opportunity for rehabilitation. Similarly, members of the Blades gang and the Eagles gang should be removed from the streets. Gang membership is essentially the same as declaring one's intent to be a violent criminal. Executing Baker will serve justice, and removing Baker permanently from society will protect the community from his crime, as will removing the gang members from the streets.
The JAY program represents an ideal in which the juvenile justice system serves the interest of both the community and the juvenile. The Baker incident highlights the limits of rehabilitative treatment for extreme cases. The JAY program's efforts to help drug offenders and status offenders are certainly admirable. Providing rehabilitation to juveniles suffering from moral poverty serves the community interest, as does giving juveniles the opportunity to “age out of delinquency”. However, programs like JAY are not capable of serving the public interest in the cases of violent, or serious juvenile offenders, offenders who require punitive and not rehabilitative justice. It should be noted that there is no reason to blame JAY for the Baker incident, as Baker was not a serious or violent offender previously. It could be argued that JAY was responsible for monitoring Baker's contact with the gang, but it could also be argued that the local juvenile crime authorities were not monitoring the gang's contact with prospective initiates.
In conclusion, the juvenile justice system (including the police, correctional agencies, the courts, and extra-judicial agencies such as JAY) bears a responsibility that the criminal justice system does not; the well being of an actor not legally responsible for his actions. This does not take precedence over the public interest, and in some cases the juvenile system must decide that an offender's violent actions take him past the point of rehabilitative justice.

Arnold, L., O'Gwin, C., & Vickers, J. (2010). Small town insurgency: The struggle for information dominance to reduce gang violence. (Master's Thesis). February 15, 2014 from http://www.hsdl.org/?view&did=5944

Buck-Willison, J. (2010, October 25). The U.S. Juvenile Justice Policy Landscape. Retrieved from http://www.urban.org/publications/1001461.htm

Chen, S. (2010). Girl's arrest for doodling raises concerns about zero tolerance. CNN. Retrieved February 15, 2014 from http://www.cnn.com/2010/CRIME/02/18/new.york.doodle.arrest/

ChildStats. (2013). Youth perpetrators of serious violent crimes. Retrieved February 11, 2014 from http://www.childstats.gov/americaschildren/beh5.asp

Holman, B.& Ziedenberg, J. (2006),.The dangers of detention: The impact of incarcerating youth in detention and other secure facilities. Washington, D.C. Justice Policy Institute. February 15, 2014 from http://www.justicepolicy.org/images/upload/06-11_REP_DangersOfDetention_JJ.pdf

Juvenile offenders responsible for six percent of violent felonies: Crime statistics from Crime in America.Net. (2010, June 9). Crime in America.net. Retrieved February 11, 2014 from http://www.crimeinamerica.net/2010/06/09/juvenile-offenders-responsible-for-six-prevent-of-violent-felonies-crime-statistics-from-crime-in-america-net/

OFCS Fact Sheet: Recidivism among juvenile delinquents and offenders released from residential care in 2008. (2011). New York State Office of Children and Family Services. Retrieved February 11, 2014 from http://www.ocfs.state.ny.us/main/detention_reform/Recidivism%20fact%20sheet.pdf

Piquero, A. & Steinberg, L. (2007) Rehabilitation versus incarceration of juvenile offenders: Public preferences in four models for change states. Models For Change. Retrieved February 11, 2014 from http://www.macfound.org/media/article_pdfs/WILLINGNESSTOPAYFINAL.PDF

Pizarro,J., Chermak,S., & Greunewald,J. (2007). Juvenile “Super-Predators” in the news:A comparison of adult & juvenile homicides. Journal of Criminal Justice and Popular Culture, 14(1). Retrieved February 11, 2014 from http://www.albany.edu/scj/jcjpc/vol14is1/pizarro.pdf#page=2&zoom=auto,0,158

Wood, J. & Alleyne, E. (2009).Street gang theory and research: Where are we now and where do we go from here? Aggression and Violent Behavior 15 (2010) 100–11. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.avb.2009.08.005

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