WDW370H1 Youth Justice
January 16, 2012
The Social and Historical Context of Youth Crime
- What is youth crime?
o Depends on what reference point youre using to define it. If youre defining what it is
today what resource would you use/what reference point would you start at? YCJA
Criminal code is where you would find those kinds of behaviours
o 13-17 year olds, prohibitions in criminal code apply to both adults and young people
o Important to understand that that might be the case today but what about in 1970?
What was legislation used then the JDA, certain behaviours in the JDA that youth
can be convicted of and adults not truancy, promiscuity, etc (status offences).
Because of a youths age they can be found guilty of things like skipping school,
disobedience to parents, etc but with YOA those status offences were abolished.
o Why do we have separate justice system for young people than we do for adults
mostly demonstrated with penalty system seen as being more lenient than they are
for adults but why?
o 3 categories of age groups
Children 12 <
o Why do these 3 categories exist? Whats the difference between a child and a
youth? No over arching rule for if a 12 year old commits murder sometimes put into
foster care, mental institutions, etc for the most part they are not treated the same
way we treat young people who do the same thing and between 13-17 years of age.
Were looking at levels of maturity, emotional and physical, moral reasoning and if
person can understand consequences of their actions
o By default in Canada we argue that 12 year olds by definition are not legally aware of
the consequences of their actions. Thats why they are not treated criminally.
o In Canada age ranges have varied over time. Cultural and historical factors affect
what is considered legitimate and illegitimate, they are not fixed in stone (drinking
age in Quebec vs. NY)
o Should there be variability or clear uniform ages across the country?
o When talking about youth and young offenders its not a category that hasnt
changed over time, it will continue to change over time.
- Role mass media plays in how youth crime is thought about/reacted to
o Important set of institutions that shape way we as a society come to think about 1.
Shapes what we think about nature of youth crime is all about, the characteristics of
youth crime and 2. It also shapes way we respond to youth crime, what we think
should be done.
o Generally speaking if you were to do content analysis of mainstream press you
would likely find that 1. Youth crime is on the rise often when youth crime is
discussed in press its assumed to be bigger problem today than in the past also 2.
Perceived to be more violent (gangs seen as more of a problem today, guns, and
increasing gang violence), kids seen as doing things that are more violent in
comparison to the past, also, 3. Compared to the past there are more females
involved in crime. Often when you get discussions of these things you get
explanations as to why this is happening violent video games, change in gender
roles, immigration (for increased gangs)2
o Belief in facts
o Why this is happening
o What to do? If facts are seen as being true, logically what needs to be done to fix the
problem? Law and Order which translates into tougher penalties more punitive,
longer prison sentences, getting rid of mandatory minimums, house arrest, etc
o Now say media reported that youth crime was going down, and sex differences in
crime has remained relatively unchanged, kinds of kids that are involved in crime
tend to be kids with problems (family problems), majority of kids age out of
delinquency usually peaks at 17 and decreases over life course. What if the press
covered all of this stuff? If the public received this message from the media what
would the why question be? Would it even be asked and more interestingly, what to
do? Create more social services for youth. In other words the way media frames
crime affects how the public views things.
o The media then plays an important part in how we view crime but it doesnt just work
in an extreme way where people become all fearing of crime. Most peoples fear of
crime is linked to their own experiences, experiences of their family, or experiences
of other people they know. Its not that closely linked to how much TV they watch. It
might affect how you think the problems should be resolved but not much impact on
your fear of crime.
o A lot of our understanding on youth crime is based on tradition, common sense, and
claims makers such as police. The so-called experts really have a bearing and
shapes how we think about crime.
o Common sense powers our understanding even though it comes from who knows
what its very powerful and the way we understand youth crime is based on this
power of how the world work (nicorette example).
o How can crime