Since psychologist say that the majority of intellectual growth takes place throughout adolescents, the ACT OF 1993helps establish the idea that incarceration may not be the best way to deter young adults from committing future crimes.
When studying the legislation which directs how young offenders should be treated, as this essay will do shortly, it is possible to detect certain trends. At some points the courts were directed to deal harshly with young offenders. Harsh treatment varies in severity, from hanging in the eighteenth century to the 'short, sharp, shock' of detention centres advocated more recently. A more humane approach is also detectable within the history of juvenile justice, whereby the correction or treatment of young offenders is directed away from the penal system and towards welfare experts. There is also some legislation which can be regarded as a reaction to a certain event, as has happened recently with regard to the treatment of young people who have committed very serious crimes but, although these examples are not very common, it provides concern as to how far policy is geared toward addressing issues. This essay will concentrate on the last 30 years of juvenile justice policy, a brief outline of the changes which have occurred in this area over a longer period will be provided in order that the debate may have some context historically (Morris & Giller 1987). Recent legislative changes and the underlying assumptions which have influenced them will then be discussed. Firstly, however, different approaches to juvenile justice will be considered.
The notion that youth in trouble with the law may just be misguided, has the youth courts not treating these matters strictly as criminal issues, but helping to divert the juvenile from a potential adult life of crime. The Young Offenders Act starts with the idea that youth should be responsible for their actions, but we must take into account that some youth make mistakes and there is no evidence that long sentences reduce youth crime. (Singer and McDowell, 1987) Child development and juvenile experts agree, that the "correction" of young offenders should be positive and influence healthy development. They say that a sense of responsibility and judgment are less developed in adolescents and thus makes rehabilitation that much greater and that the traditional sentences and emphasis on incarceration do not work well. They believe that rehabilitation, where possible, can address the needs and circumstances under which a crime was committed, for example, killing/maiming animals at a young age often indicates an underlying psychosis.
The Act itself was developed around the purpose; giving the young offender a chance to realize that they are headed in the wrong direction. It is not trying to adjudicate crime, but to merely "save" the child involved and reduce their chance of recidivism. They caught onto this notion through the determination that adolescent development is critical to the mental, cognitive, social and moral/ethical well being of the young adult (The World of Psychology, 1999).
Psychologists believe that the years between 12-17 are the most detrimental to these factors and that one has to understand that human development is the function of the