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CC200 Youth Justice


CC200 Youth Justice The Rise and Fall of Delinquency Chapter One The Public Issue Over the last twenty years, youth crime has been the focus of public concern and ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: CC200 Youth Justice

CC200 Youth Justice
  • The Rise and Fall of Delinquency
  • Chapter One

The Public Issue
  • Over the last twenty years, youth crime has been
    the focus of public concern and discourse.
  • Canada-wide, newspaper headlines warned their
    readers of a serious crime problem if immediate
    steps were not taken.
  • Beyond the headlines, newspapers have
    consistently carried horrific accounts of violent
    criminal deeds carried out by young Canadians.

  • By the close of the 1990s, media headlines were
    fuelling public fear and concern regarding
    violent crimes committed by girls.
  • School violence was also added to the growing
    list of horrific youth behaviors.
  • News coverage of violent crimes is not surprising
    think of the old saying in media if it bleeds,
    it leads.

  • What may be surprising is the amount of coverage
    that youth crime generates in the media, when
    those who study crime in society are well aware
    that adult crime far surpasses youth crime, both
    in quality and severity.
  • It is also surprising when one looks at the
    proportion of youth crime that is violent to that
    which is not.

Questions to consider
  • According to recent police statistics (2005), the
    rate of violent youth crime has remained
    relatively stable since 1992 and actually
    decreased by 2 percent in 2004.
  • Why, then does the public believe that violent
    youth crime is on the rise?
  • What potential impact has this belief had on
    legislation regarding youth crime?

  • Media coverage along with personal experiences,
    in some cases, prompted many Canadians to express
    their concerns about out-of-control youth and
    criminal behaviors.
  • The general public consensus regarding the Young
    Offenders Act (YOA) was that it was ineffective
    in curbing youth crime, that it was too lenient,
    and that it needed to be over-hauled.

  • Youth crime became a focal point for politicians
    during the 1993 federal election.
  • As a result, the YOA was revised three times
    before being replaced in April of 2003 by the
    Youth Criminal Justice Act.
  • Even with the implementation of the new Act, the
    flow of media on violent youth and youth crime
    did not slow down, nor did the rhetoric of
    politicians youth crime was still a major issue
    in the federal election of 2006.

  • The same old new issue is the ability of the
    new legislation to offer more than a slap on the
    wrist for youth engaged in criminal and violent
  • If we are to believe media accounts and coverage
    of the new Act, we could conclude that the Act
    has failed, that nothing is new, and that youth
    justice is still a slap on the wrist.

Two Sides to the Same Old Debate 1995-2005
  • Part of the Liberal federal governments 1995 YOA
    reforms involved a Strategy for Reform of the
    complete youth justice system.
  • An important part of this process was the
    implementation of public forums across Canada to
    discuss the issue of youth crime, to propose
    potential solutions, and to make recommendations
    to the House of Commons Standing Committee on
    Justice and Legal Affairs.

  • The core of the debate centered around the
    question of whether the YOA effectively
    controlled youth crime.
  • The public was clearly divided into two camps
    youth advocates and the law-and-order advocates.

Youth Advocate Position
  • This camp included social workers, lawyers, and
    other front-line youth workers and viewed
    children and youth as victims in need of
  • They believed that neither the YOA nor children
    were the problem.
  • For this group, the important issues were those
    related to the difficulties that youth encounter
    in an increasingly complex society.

  • This perspective focuses on the current economic,
    social, and political realities that can be a
    tremendous hardship for some young people and
    their families.
  • Economic and/or social problems may exacerbate
    other problems with families and some young
    people are forced to leave home as a matter of

  • Youth advocates were fundamentally concerned with
    the problems experienced by young people rather
    than youth crime.
  • It was their opinion that youth crime had been
    exaggerated and misrepresented in most public
    accounts, particularly by the media.

The Law-and-Order Argument
  • The other perspective was the one most often seen
    in media presentations.
  • This law-and-order group viewed children and
    youth accused of crime as an enemy from whom
    law-abiding citizens (adults) needed protection.
  • This group included police officers, store
    security personnel, small-business owners, and
    home-owners associations.

  • They viewed youth as out-of-control and argued
    that both youth and the YOA were problems.
  • They argued for a get tough on crime policy and
    called tougher legislation to deal with the
    perceived problem.

Youth were a problem because
  1. They were said to lack respect.
  2. They lacked a sense of responsibility.
  3. They were increasingly involved in violent
    criminal behavior.

The YOA was problematic because
  1. Youth could not be identified.
  2. Youth were not punished for their crimes.
  3. Youth had more rights than their victims.
  4. Youth were too protected by the YOA.

  • Ten years later, people are again gathering to
    discuss the youth justice system, only this time
    it is the Youth Criminal Justice Act that is
    under scrutiny.
  • It is interesting that even though the
    participants in the forum have changed the focus
    is the same the youth justice system.
  • The same arguments are still being put forward by
    youth advocates and law-and-order advocates.
  • So, why does appear that the more things change
    the more they remain the same?

The Good Old Days
  • Perhaps the most basic assumption influencing
    public views regarding youth crime is the notion
    that todays youth are more engaged in violent
    and criminal behaviors.
  • Yet crime statistics do not support this idea.
  • Canadian crime statistics dating back to 1885
    indicate that youth have always been involved in
    criminal activity, including violent crime.

  • It is hard to find historical data on youth crime
    and public responses prior to 1885 because youth
    crime statistics were not always kept in the same
    manner that they are today.
  • There are no consistent prison records, for
    example, until 1885 when Kingston Penitentiary
    the first Canadian prison opened.

  • Most Canadian criminologist studying in this area
    have relied more on the work of historians than
    criminologist to develop an understanding of
    youth crime and justice in the early years.
  • So, what have we discovered?

Lawless and Disobedient Youth 17th and 18th
  • Information on youth involvement in crime in
    Canada during this time period is sketchy.
  • What information we can uncover indicates that
    concerns were expressed about youth as a problem
    in North American colonies as early as the late
    17th century.

  • Throughout recorded history, children in European
    societies have had a different legal status than
  • In essence, what this means is simply that they
    had no legal rights.
  • Infanticide, child labor, and child slavery were
  • The idea that children had legal rights or that
    they had legal rights to protection from adults
    did not emerge until the 19th century.

  • Colonial administrators brought traditions and
    legal codes to the New World.
  • The first European settler executed in the
    territories of Canada was a 16 year old female
    who was convicted of theft in 1640.
  • However, in some cases, young persons were
    treated with more leniency. For example

  • In 1672 a 13 year old girl who had helped her
    parents murder her husband escaped execution
    because of her age.
  • Instead, she was required to watch the execution
    of her parents.

Colonial Public Issue
  • The issue for colonial administration in the
    territories of Canada was the freedom and
    independence that young people had relative to
    their counterparts in the Old World.
  • In Europe, children were subservient to adults
    and dependent on parents.
  • This was not always the case in the New World.

  • In the largely rural nature of the population in
    New France, parents were dependent on the
    childrens labor for economic survival and
  • Therefore, rural and working-class children in
    the New World had considerable independence from
    their parents.
  • In the view of the colonial administrators,
    parental authority was significantly undermined
    by this arrangement and this lack of authority
    was evidenced in young peoples behaviors.

Causes and solutions An Era of Control and
  • Another identified issue concerned the fur trade
    an extremely lucrative business at this time.
  • The system of inheritance in place at the time,
    dictated that only the eldest son could inherit
    family farms.
  • Other children had to look elsewhere for a

  • The fur trade provided this opportunity for many
    young men as well as promising freedom, adventure
    and a lucrative career.
  • According to Carrigan (1991), the fur trade was
    rife with fraud, immorality, theft, assault, and
    murder and teenagers probably contributed their
    fair share to the lawlessness (pg.204).

  • Another very real source of problems came from
    the active promotion of immigration to the New
  • Impoverished Europeans had been lured to the New
    World with promises of a better, more prosperous
  • However, once they arrived, many found
    unemployment, sickness, destitution, or death.

  • Untold quantities of children found themselves in
    desperate circumstances because of the hardships
    faced by their parents in the New World.
  • Some parents died while others simply abandoned
    their children.

  • In the 18th century, a variety of measured were
    proposed as solutions to youth crime.
  • More schools, more priests, and confinement to
    settled parts of the colony were as informal
    solutions uniquely suited to the political,
    social, and economic structures of this time,
    other proposals such as fines and punishments for
    parents and offenders, military justice, and an
    increase of garrison troops has a familiar modern
    ring to them.

A Question of Immorality the 19th Century
  • Urban problems associated with immigration and
    poverty continued and worsened throughout the
    19th century.
  • The Irish famine exacerbated the orphan problem
    in Canada by increasing the number of people
    emigrating to the New World.
  • By the mid-1800s, British and Canadian
    authorities had implemented policies to send
    Britains orphaned, poor, and destitute children
    to Canada as indentured servants.

  • Indentured servant a bonded laborer - a laborer
    under contract to work for an employer for a
    specific amount of time, about 7-8 years, to pay
    off a passage to a new country or home.
  • Typically the employer provided little if any
    monetary pay, but was responsible for
    accommodation, food, other essentials, and
  • Upon completion of the term of the contract the
    laborer sometimes received a lump sum payment
    such as a parcel of land and was free to farm or
    take up trade of his own.

  • Between 1883 and 1903, more than 95,000 children
    came to Canada under the sponsorship of child
    immigration agencies.
  • Many of these children found only a life of
    misery and harsh working conditions in Canada.
  • Some children abandoned their contracts (a
    punishable offence) which left them dependent on
    their own resources for survival.

  • Life was also very challenging for the poor in
    Victorian Canada.
  • Many did not have work, and those who were
    fortunate enough to secure employment were
    often at the mercy of unscrupulous employers.
  • What factor might have contributed to being at
    the mercy of employers?

  • Girls were especially vulnerable.
  • Those working as domestics and servants for
    shopkeepers were often forced to service male
    customers in order to keep their jobs.
  • They were not free to leave the job because they
    would forfeit a letter of reference without which
    they would not be able to secure another job.

The Victorian Public Issue
  • By the mid-1800s, the urban middle-class in North
    America began to voice concerns about the
    morality of the poor and destitute.
  • Various urban relief agencies were created in
    cities across the continent to address issues
    such as illiteracy, prostitution, alcohol abuse,
    juvenile delinquency, and family squalor.

  • The discourse surrounding those agencies and
    their activities served to define problems, their
    causes, and seemingly appropriate solutions.
  • During the second half of the 19th century, the
    issue of youth crime seemed to focus on the issue
    of morality.

  • High levels of poverty and the accompanying
    destitution brought on by a lack of employment
    opportunities and severe working conditions meant
    that high numbers of children and young people
    were spending a significant portion of their days
    on the streets where they engaged in begging,
    stealing, and selling whatever they could to make
    a living.

  • The public issue however was not poverty.
  • It was the morality of the impoverished working
  • The parents of these children were considered to
    be immoral and unable and/or unwilling to control
    their children.
  • Much of the morality discourse about youth
    problems centered around discussions about
    children on the streets and what could be done
    about them.

  • Young women on the streets were also the focus of
    grave concern.
  • However, their safety was not the issue or
  • Instead the focus was on the perceived danger to
    their morality.

Causes and Solutions An Era of Social Reform
  • A reform movement swept across North America in
    the later half of the 19th century.
  • The fundamental elements of this movement were a
    focus on the individual, a wide-spread belief in
    the goodness of humanitarian sentiments, and a
    belief in the ability of the state and
    professionals to reform individuals.

  • This, in essence, marked the emergence of the
    rehabilitative philosophy.
  • Reformers argued that it made no sense to fight
    evil with evil by imprisoning and punishing
    criminal offenders.
  • Instead it would much more effective in the
    long-run to fight evil with good by attempting to
    rehabilitate individuals who had committed crimes.

  • This reform policy applied most readily to
    children and young people.
  • Child savers found it easy to believe that if
    young enough, a child could be saved from a
    life of crime through interventions designed to
    correct the factors believed to influence
    children in the development of criminal ways.

  • Along with this belief came the conclusion that
    placing children in prison with adult criminals
    was not the way to combat the problem of youth
  • Prisons were viewed by many as schools of crime
    where children would associate with, and pick up
    the habits of, hardened adult criminals.

  • One hundred years earlier, it had been argued
    that improper parenting was the cause of youth
  • By the end of the 19th century improper parenting
    was again emerging in public discourse as the
    primary cause of youth crime.
  • However, this time, the claims took on another

  • Youth problems were no longer attributed to a
    lack of parental discipline of loss of authority.
  • Instead, neglectful and/or immoral parents were
    blamed for youth problems and criminal behaviors.
  • Poor, working-class parents were viewed as
    inadequate or as bad role models for their
  • Sound familiar?

  • By the end of the 19th century, the juvenile
    delinquent had been born.
  • Growing up on the street became the subject of
    public condemnation and regulation and a
    life-style a street culture had become the
    most common definition of juvenile delinquency
    (Houston, 1982, p.131).

The Era of the Juvenile Delinquent The 20th
  • The turn of the century saw continued increases
    in population and in the rapid growth of cities.
  • This was accompanied by a variety of social
    issues, including increases in youth crime.
  • Simply put, as cities grew and commercial
    activities expanded so did the opportunities for
    criminal activities and different types of crime.

  • Statistics for all of Canada indicate dramatic
    increases in youth crime rates throughout the
    20th century.
  • Convictions of children under 16 increased by
    over 124 percent between 1911 and 1921, and by
    over 67 percent between 1921 and 1931.
  • During the 1920s, drug use and drug dealing
    surfaced as a social issue and led to a number of
    arrests and convictions of young people in Canada.

  • Increases in the numbers of youth involved in
    criminal activities do not necessarily mean that
    young people were or are behaving in a more
    criminal manner.
  • As the number of people in a population
    increases, the amount of crime will also increase
    simply because there are more people to engage in
    criminal behavior.

  • A comparative technique is to examine what
    proportion of all crime is accounted for by youth
  • In 1972, juveniles accounted for 19.5 of all
    persons charged with Criminal Code offences.
  • They accounted for 32.2 by 1980.
  • In 1989, young people under the age of 18 were
    responsible for 22 of all Criminal Code charges.

  • This had decreased to 19 in 1999, and to 17 in
  • As we can see, while there have been variations
    in the percentages, we see that youth represent a
    relatively small percentage of offenders when
    compared to adults.
  • And this number appears to be decreasing in the
    last few years.

A Sociological Perspective on Youth Crime
  • A sociological perspective is different from
    other perspectives, like a psychological one for
    example, because we attempt to place the
    individual into a larger context in order to
    better understand behavior.
  • The individuals history, family, school, or
    neighborhood become important

  • But this interest leads to further questions
    about these factors that also need to be
    understood in a context.
  • The history of the family, the structure of
    government, and how that regulates family, or the
    culture, economy, polity, and philosophy of
    Canadian or western society, and the impact of
    all of these factors on family structure and

  • Therefore, sociological questions about crime
    including youth crime range from exploring why
    individuals behave as they do, by examining the
    family, school, or peers, to questions about
    crime in a global context.
  • Questions about crime also include questions
    about the meaning of crime, how we talk about it,
    and define it, how we respond to it and regulate
    it, and how we think about both.

  • What is important from this perspective revolves
    around the nature and dynamics of public issues
    because their dynamics serve to frame what is
  • The main questions concern why youth crime is a
    public issue and how it is problematized.

Youth Crime as a Public Issue
  • Public issues including youth crime are
    influenced more by structural, social,
    demographic, and political factors than by actual
    criminal behavior.
  • As discussed earlier, children made up a
    significant portion of the population in Upper
    and Lower Canada.

  • Prior to industrialization, life expectancy was
    considerably lower than it is now and as a result
    more than 50 of the population was often under
    the age of 25.
  • By the 19th century, these population proportions
    began to change and these demographic shifts have
    been used to partially explain why the deviant
    behavior of children came to be viewed
    differently by adults.

  • These demographic shifts stimulated structural
    changes such as legislation restricting child
    labor and enforced compulsory schooling which
    had consequences for the social status of
  • As children were moved out of factories they
    became a sedentary population and a surplus

  • Simply put, they were no longer useful as
    laborers and producers.
  • This resulted in a shift in their social status
    and position within their communities and
    families from an economic asset to a economic
  • They became dependent on adults for their

And now?
  • Children and youth are subordinate to adult
  • They are not permitted such adult rights as
    holding decision-making positions, working for a
    wage (before a certain age) obtaining credit,
    getting married, or engaging in adult pleasures.
  • This means that young people are not only
    dependent but are marginal to adult society and
    exist on the periphery.

  • Adults not only control youth through their
    dependent and marginalized status, it is the
    adult who defines the meaning of youth who they
    are, their place in society, and their purpose.
  • Youth represent, for the adult, the mirror of
    society (Rush, 1992) and reflect both what
    adults wish for and what they fear.

  • As Rush sums up, increases in youth crime are
    indicative of impending social doom (1992,
  • BUT WAIT We have discovered that youth crime
    has not necessarily gone up. Why do we insist on
    thinking that is has and that youth are more
    dangerous now than before?!

Back to the Role of the Media
  • Media play a crucial role in defining youth as a
    dangerous class in large part because of the
    type and frequency of the coverage they provide
    on youth.
  • We must also consider that people with only a bit
    of information about a particular crime are more
    fearful and punitive than those with more

  • Therefore the media play a crucial role in
    constructing youth crime into a social issue
    (Hartnagel Baron, 1995, p.56).
  • Sensationalist media coverage of youth crime
    easily arouses public fear and moral indignation.
  • Schissel (1997) posits that media reporting does
    much more than simply sensationalize.

  • He argues that it presents certain groups like
    the poor and marginalized as dangerous people
    from whom law-abiding citizens need police
  • Criminologists have identified a variety of ways
    in which media promote panic, hatred, and fear
    about youth.
  • One of the most important ways this occurs is
    through decontexualization.

  • Crimes are always, by the limiting nature of
    media (especially newspapers), discussed out of
  • Context is provided by the journalist, often in a
    manner that generates a number of emotions fear,
    moral outrage, despair, panic, and hatred.
  • The message in these stories are also
    decontextualized by what is missing.

  • Stories of youth crime seldom presents the views
    of youth advocates, rather we hear the voices of
    police officers and Crown prosecutors, victims,
    and irate individuals.
  • In this way media discourse is extremely powerful
    in promoting the law-and-order agenda and
    reinforcing a sense that nothing can be done
    about youth crime but to implement more punitive
    measures of control.

  • What is clear to us it that how Canadians
    perceive, define, and respond to youth crime has
    changed over the last century.
  • At the turn of the 19th century, the public view
    of youth crime was of delinquents engaged in
    juvenile delinquency.
  • One hundred years later, the view was of young
    offenders engaged in youth crime.

  • Now, at the turn of the 21st century a new frame
    is emerging.
  • The Youth Criminal Justice Act is set to frame
    the issue as one of youth criminals engaged in
    unlawful activities.

Discussion questions for chapter one
  1. Can we answer questions about the severity of
    youth crime today compared to the past?
  2. Should the media be prevented from the
    reproduction of materials that reinforce and
    perpetuate harmful views of marginalized groups
    and individuals?
  3. Who has the most realistic view of youth crime
    and justice the law and order group or youth