“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men” said Fredrick Douglass, but what if we, as a society, are breaking children themselves?
31,591 cases related to juvenile delinquency were filed in the year 2018, a slight improvement from the 33,606 in 2017 (NCRB). The first decade of the century saw a steep rise in the percentage of children committing crimes, more so in the 16-18 age bracket as compared to their juniors (60.7%). The data is alarming and demands all our attention at once.
What is juvenile delinquency?
According to Oxford “The habitual committing of criminal acts or offences by a young person, especially one below the age at which ordinary criminal prosecution is possible” is juvenile delinquency. Children below the age of 16,in India, generally fall into this category (before the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015 the bar age was 18) .
The early signs are excused as ‘one-time mistake’ or ‘childishness’ but it only adds up to the larger collage of self-destruction.
The causes for Juvenile Delinquency
A study by Jarjoura, et al, 2002, said that “poverty and delinquency are related. Children who experience long periods of poverty between birth and age 5 or in the early teenage years (ages 11-15) are more likely to engage in both property and violent offending.”
According to a report by ‘Ideas for India’, if we consider the per capita Net State Domestic Product, the income inequalities have a major impact on adult crime rates (Mocan and Rees 1999, Machin and Meghir 2004). The report also stated that as the poorer states start becoming richer, the tendency of the children committing crimes also increases, till some extent.
According to a 2013 book ‘Reforming Juvenile Justice: A Developmental Approach’, adolescence is a critical period which marks the transition between childhood and adulthood. Adolescents are curious about the world. They are risk takers and are open to new experiences. It also results in more sensitivity to the peer groups along with other societal influences.
According to Nishit Kumar of Childline India Foundation over 90% of all delinquency is a response to how society treats a child. “More than 40 percent of India’s children are marginalised through trafficking, poverty, addiction, labour, abuse, disability, addiction, calamity, conflicts, exploitation etc. Rather than addressing this issue, we are talking about trying juveniles on a case by case basis,” he says.
Less parental supervision, conflicts between parents, parents who show a lack of respect to the social norms, and rules can create a harmful atmosphere for children.
Professor and social research expert, Sarantakos found that 78% of delinquents came from a family which experienced physical violence, whereas only 22% from the family with non-violence households.
Juvenile offences and Law in India
When the arrested is a juvenile, they are placed under the special juvenile official, who thereafter produces the child before the Juvenile Justice Board. The treatment of juveniles in case of serious crimes has been debated for a long time. (2012 Delhi gang rape-case)
The Juvenile Justice act (2000) was amended in the year 2015, which allowed the Children in Conflict with Law (CCL) to be tried as adults in certain situations. They cannot be sentenced to life imprisonment or capital punishment, without the possibility of a release.
The government of Norway collects a tremendous amount of data about their population. According to ‘The Conversation’, Richard Berk from the University of Pennsylvania aimed to study this data, view the circumstances of birth and predict if the individual is capable enough of committing crimes.
Richard Berk used the ‘Machine Learning’ technique to predict the future course of action. The same prediction method had earlier successfully predicted the shopping habits of the people in the US and the pregnancy of high school students.Though not in juvenile crimes he was successful to predict the low-risk individuals, most likely to indulge in domestic violence.
Some neuroscientists believe that certain brain tests can determine the tendency of a child delinquency. Sounds like Minority Report happening in real life, doesn’t it?
Featured Image Source – Credits – Getty images