During the medieval ages, the church was responsible for passing outjudgment on all the wrong doers. The punishment was harsh and it didnot discriminate whether the offender was an adult or a child. It wascommon to find a six-year-old on death row for breaking into a shopto steal bread. It was not until the 18th Century thatWestern civilizations decided to look at the juvenile crime issuefrom a different perspective. Of course, there were those who wereopposed to a separate justice system for children claiming that sucha move would only serve to breed future criminals. In the USA, thedebate still rages on regarding whether children who commit capitaloffences such as murder, should face the law as an adult offenderwould. The issue regarding when a person is able to comprehend theconsequence of his crime, is still subject to debate. This essaycompares juvenile crime in the USA and England.
Age of criminal responsibility
In England, the age of criminal responsibility is 10 years (gov.uk,2016). Prior to that, the English justice system stipulated that theage of criminal responsibilitybebetween 10 and 13 years. Even then,the prosecution still had to prove to the court that indeed theoffender knew the difference between right and wrong. It was alwaysan uphill task to prove that a young offender was capable of tellingright from wrong. Because of the high number of young offenders whoexploited the loophole of proving that the accused knew right fromwrong, the English Legal system decided to set the age criminalresponsibility at 10. The prosecution no longer needs to prove to thecourt that the offender can tell between right and wrong, as long ashe is 10 years and above.
The age of criminal responsibility in the USA varies according tostate. The state with the lowest age of criminal responsibility isCarolina. However, it is important to note that only 15 states in theUnited States have set the age of criminal responsibility. The restof the states depend on common law to determine the age at whichyoung offenders are held liable for their crimes. This age is usually7 years. According to the USA federal law, the age of criminalresponsibility is 7 years, making the USA among the countries withthe lowest age of criminal responsibility.
Number of Arrests
In 2015, 10.8% of all the arrests in the UK comprised young people ofbetween the ages of 10 and 17 years. Ever since the period between2006 and 2007, the number of juvenile arrests has gone down by 20%.In the history of the British youth justice system, the period of2006/2006 marked the peak in the arrests of juveniles. The provenoffences by young people in 2015 were 90,769, down from 96,896 in2014. Overall, offences by young people have been going down annuallyever since they hit the peak in 2006. The results point out to aworking Youth Justice System in England.
In the USA, the proportion of juveniles that were arrested in 2015was 19%. According to the US department of justice, the number ofarrests has been going down considerably after they hit their peak in1994 (Justice.gov, 2016). Juvenile arrests in the USA involve seriouscrimes such as murder, robbery and rape. Sixty four percent of allthe juveniles arrested were found to be in a gang with adults. Thisrevelation shows the impact of older siblings and friends on thebehavior of juveniles.
Factors contributing to Juvenile crime
The mass incarceration of juveniles in the USA is partly to blame onthe system. Juveniles have been incarcerated for petty offences suchas shoplifting and being in possession of drugs. The relaxed gun lawsin the USA are also attributable. A teenager in the USA is morelikely to have access to a gun than his counterpart in England. Withthe hovering influence of violent crime, coupled with poor judgment,these teenagers find themselves engaging in violent crime using theguns.
The primary factor leading to juvenile arrests in England is drug.Most of the young people are usually arrested when they attendparties that are laden with drugs. The prevalence of violent crimeamong young people aged between 10 and 17 years is comparatively lawbecause of the strict gun laws in England.
Research has shown that most of convicted juveniles go back toengaging in crime shortly after the end of their probation. Some donot wait for their probation to end before they indulge in anothercrime. Maybe it time we concentrated on restorative justice in thejuvenile justice system (Strang, 2002). The high return rate toincarceration is proof enough that the system does not rehabilitatethe youngsters instead, it appears as though it hardens them to behardcore criminals when they become of legal age. Restorative justicewill make the juveniles to realize what they did was wrong, andtherefore seek amends with their victims.
Gov.uk, (2016). Youth justice statistics 2013/2014. Retrievedfrom<https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/399380/youth-justice-stats-exec-summary-2.pdf>accessed June 7, 2016.
Justice.gov, (2016). Juvenile crime facts. Retrieved from <https://www.justice.gov/usam/criminal-resource-manual-102-juvenile-crime-facts>accessed June 7, 2016.
Strang, H. (2002). Repair or revenge: Victims and restorativejustice. Clarendon Press.