Before the 20th century, criminal offenders in Australia were not separated into age groups. Thus, a child under 10 years of age was subject to the same penalties given to an adult who committed the same crime. Children were often sentenced to hard labor, corporal punishment or capital punishment. The government finally realized the injustice of the system and made the appropriate changes. Today, youth offenders aged 10 to 17 years of age enter the juvenile justice system. The new system ensured that young offenders were not met with the same harsh penalties as adults.
Prevalence of Juvenile Crime
From 2007 to 2008, young offender statistics indicated that the number of crimes committed by individuals aged 15 to 19 was four times higher compared to the number of crimes committed by people over the age of 19. Often times, young offenders often demonstrated repeat offender behaviour.
Implementation of a New Juvenile Program
Recently, the Australian government was influenced to change the demographics by developing a program with principles designed to reduce the chance that a youngster becomes a re-offending statistic. The program focuses on young people demonstrating high-risk factors. Five core principles are utilized for assessment and rehabilitation.
- Needs – High risk needs requiring intervention include anger and violent behaviour, substance abuse, family problems, maladjusted relationships, and non-productive behaviour. Some youths may lack education or suffer from mild to moderate mental illness.
- Responsivity – There are a number of characteristics that make interfere with a young offender’s ability to learn through therapeutic treatment. Factors may include age, disability, ethnicity, gender, and socioeconomic status. The factors must be identified and taken into consideration in order to develop a successful treatment plan.
- Integrity – In order for the program to be successful, the protocol implemented must demonstrate integrity in practice in the manner in which it was designed.
- Professional discretion – Professional participating in the program must have the ability to make decisions concerning individual young offenders based on the characteristics and situations not outlined in the other principles.
Preventing repeat offences would also be determined by the seriousness of the crime. Low-risk juveniles many simply require more extensive monitoring by family. Higher risk youth may not be able to integrate into society due to accommodation, educational, employment or leisure concerns. These factors must be addressed. Level 3 and 4 offenders may need substance abuse rehabilitation, changes in relationships or other alterations that contribute to criminal behaviour.