Dr. MJ Bazos MD,
What does delinquency mean?
- Delinquency means antisocial or violent behaviour
in young people, often involving criminal acts.
- There is a wide range in the seriousness of
- Many young people commit crimes such as not
paying on public transportation or shoplifting.
- Most young people who get involved in criminal
activity simply outgrow the behaviour as they get older.
What works to prevent
- Social development programs are the best way to
prevent 'high risk' children from becoming delinquent.
- Social development programs include home
visiting, and high quality child care as well as family, school and community
- They work to help parents give their children
what they need for healthy development:
- A healthy physical start, enough food, safety,
- An environment where they can play, learn and
- Encouragement and guidance from adults.
- Such programs for children and youth work best
- counteract more than one of the 'risk' factors
for becoming delinquent
- begin early, long before the teenage years
- continue for as long as they are needed
Recognizing 'high risk'
- Some forms of early childhood behaviour may
predict later delinquent behaviour:
- attention-seeking, antisocial or aggressive
- poor problem-solving or self-control skills
- Classroom behaviour problems as early as
kindergarten are often a sign of other problems in the child's life.
the difference in families
- Many young offenders have been abused or
witnessed abuse in their homes.
- Programs that support families and parents of
very young children can significantly reduce child abuse.
- These include homevisiting programs to help new
mothers get used to their new roles, increase their confidence and make them
feel less isolated.
- Education and training programs also help and
the difference in preschool settings
- The first six years of life have the greatest
importance in children's healthy development.
- Studies show that for children at high risk for
delinquency, high quality child care and early education programs can reduce the
- These programs are associated with high rates of
high school graduation and employment.
Making the difference in
- Teaching that involves children and encourages
their success can help to prevent delinquency.
- Different kinds of learning opportunities build
confidence and help children feel connected to their school.
- Helping children feel comfortable especially in
primary school can make a difference.
- Difficulties in the early grades can mean later
school failure or drop-out.
- Chances of getting involved in delinquent
behaviour increase if children drop out of school.
- High schools that mix the usual subjects with
practical skills, such as looking for a job or managing money, may help to keep
students in school.
works to prevent re-offending?
- For young people convicted of crimes, programs
that include their families, schools and friends can work to prevent them from
- These kinds of programs recognize that the young
person might need help to change behaviours in different parts of his or her
- These programs work because they focus on peer
group and family problems often linked to delinquency.
- A number of new approaches involve young people,
their families and their communities in seeking solutions to the problems of
- Youth Justice Committees act as extensions of the
usual court system.
- They are made up of a cross-section of community
- Thinking also of the victim, they decide on a
consequence for the young person which fits in with the Young Offenders Act.
- Family Group Conferencing is based on a New
Zealand native model to include family, friends and neighbours of both the young
person and the victim in making a plan to respond to the crime.
- This kind of meeting is an alternative to sending
the young person to court.
- Sentencing Circles also involve community members
in making decisions about punishment.
- Sentencing Circles take place mostly in
What doesn't work?
- Locking up young people - keeping them in custody
- is the most expensive, least effective way to prevent them from further
- Studies have shown that locking young people up
to scare them away from crime does not work.
- They often respond with increased aggression,
anger and rates of re-offending.
- 'Boot camps' are a type of custody based on the
military training model.
- The belief is that the strict discipline will
keep young people from re-offending and will increase their sense of personal
- Overall, boot camps do not reduce the rate of
- Custody should be reserved for youth who
represent a clear risk to community safety.
- It costs about $100,000 a year to keep one young
person in custody.
think about: "Money invested in
early prevention is money saved later on remedial services in school, social,
physical and mental health services for families and correctional services for
juveniles and adults." R.E. Tremblay & W. Craig
"Developmental Crime Prevention" in
Building a Safer Society: Strategic
Approaches to Crime Prevention, 19
"Social development is an investment in
people, in communities, and in society, and helps prevent crime; it is also cost
effective." H.P. Hepworth, The Economics of Crime Prevention, Focus Magazine,
Crime Prevention Council http://www.crime-prevention.org/ncpc/