[LETTERS to the editor]Saving kids from lives of crime
More and more heinous crimes are taking place daily. Surprisingly, in some cases, the criminals behind these acts are not always adults. Children who commit criminal acts and offenses that disturb order in society are referred to as juvenile delinquents. Wayward kids could get involved in illegal drugs, damage to property (graffiti, for example), or theft. Juvenile delinquency is a problem that ought to be solved as soon as possible. To make this possible, the situation must be carefully analyzed and evaluated.
Three factors most often cause juvenile delinquency. First of these is when a child is neglected or abused. Parents and schoolmates are implicated in this. Neglectful parents, who care little for their children, hardly ever treat them right. Often, this leads children to rely less on parents to teach them right and wrong.
A child suffering from such neglect or abuse is likely to lack a sense of justice, and is thus likely to commit acts that seem to fill the void. Bullies can also abuse a child, and can lead children to believe that only by being a bully can they free themselves from being bullied. Therefore, the children become tough and abusive, disregarding the rules of society and becoming delinquents.
Secondly, and related to parental neglect, a child can eventually end up lacking in morals. Without the rule of right and wrong to guide children, they do everything out of desire with absolutely no regard for rules.
The third factor, trying to look cool, plays a significant role in juvenile delinquency. Often, children think that by doing things that go against the rules, they will be admired by their peers and look cool. To the potential delinquent, being cool is about not being concerned by the rules and limits of society, so out of a desire to look cool to friends, a child can commit crimes.
The situation can be solved, but it requires the efforts of both the public and the law. At present, laws are being enforced to prevent juvenile delinquency, but the public is uninterested and unmoved.
The law is undeniably becoming stricter and more punitive. The Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act, which led to the creation of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention in 1974, has been updated numerous times. The following are the major additions:
Deinstitutionalization: Status offenders (underage violators) may not be detained or confined by the police.
Segregation: Youths must be strictly separated from adults in custody. Since this measure was introduced, sexual assault rates in custody decreased sharply.
Jail and lockup removal: As above, youths subject to juvenile courts and hearings may not be locked up in the same facility in which adults are locked up.
However, even with these measures, youth crime rates are on the rise. This mainly points to the public’s responsibility. Parents must take more care to take interest in their children. Parents and teachers must emphasize the value of morals in leading successful lives in society. This is so because children must first get away from the idea that bending the rules is in any way cool. It is up to the parents and teachers to do this. When children are protected from abuse and neglect, their moral development is sure to last through adulthood. Thus we can not only prevent juvenile delinquency, but also lower crime rates in adults.
Sang Won Choi, Hanyoung Foreign Language High School, Seoul.