Young-Offenders-Course-Notes.doc

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Published on 16 Apr 2013
School
University of Guelph
Department
Sociology
Course
SOC 3710
Professor
Chapter One
Introduction: In the past century Canada has seen the intro of 3 different legislative regimes for
administering juvenile justice: the Juvenile Delinquents Act of 1908, the young Offenders Act of
1984, and the Youth Criminal Justice Act of 2002. In the course of legislative history, Canada
has followed a pattern of change similar to other Western countries. Recent decades have
witnessed a predominantly child-welfare model of juvenile justice eroded and replaced with
more legalistic, and more punitive, justice and crime-control models of juvenile justice
procedure.
There has been a shift in language that has occurred from considering such young ppl as
‘misguided children’ or ‘juvenile delinquents’, who have committed acts of juvenile
delinquency – The legal term, which came into popular use in the 19th century to describe
violations of the law by persons who had not reached the legal age of adulthood, that are best
dealt with in juvenile courts – Specialized courts first created in the late 19th century to apply
juvenile justice laws in the care of dependent and delinquent children, to viewing them as
‘criminal youth’ whose criminal acts are best dealt with through youth criminal justice systems
A substitute for juvenile courts. Critical criminologists argue that it signifies a shift toward
treating young offenders more like adult offenders.
Western countries see two competing discourses of how society should deal with troubled youth,
the first discourse is of the reformable young offender – Coined by Bryan Hogeveen to
describe the discursive construction of some young offenders as ‘troubled’ and therefore needing
intervention in the hope they can be rehabilitated, this discourse proposes that troubled youth
‘required intervention and could be rehabilitated’. The second discourse is that of the
punishable young offender – (Hogeveen) to describe the discursive construction of some young
offenders as ‘troublesome’ and therefore requiring punishment in order to make them
accountable for their criminal acts, which proposes that ‘troubling’ youth require punishment
first and foremost, leaving reform interventions as secondary measures. Many criminologists
argue that recent decades have witnessed a punitive turn thesis in CanadaArgument that in
recent decades the cjs of Western countries have become more punishment oriented, with longer
prison sentences and higher rates of incarceration. However, others disagree and contend that
there is little evidence to support the claim that Canada’s more recent approach to dealing with
young ppl in conflict with the law.
The nature and direction of historical and contemporary trends in Canadian youth justice cannot
be adequately understood without taking into account the connected experience of other
countries. There are many commonalities that link the historical development and current state
of juvenile systems across Western countries, there are also important historical, cultural, and
political differences that make Canada’s current approach to youth justice unique.
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The Development of Modern Juvenile Justice Systems: To understand how young ppl are
viewed the way they are by the cjs, we must explore the meaning of childhood and how this
meaning has changed over time.
Studies have covered a broad array of topics, including: the changing nature of parental attitudes,
the evolution of adult child-rearing practices, changes in the use of child labour, and changing
sensibilities about child abuse and delinquency. Criminologists have drawn on the work of
historians of childhood and the changing social and economic status of children in Western
society were connected to the development of early child-welfare-model juvenile justice systems
in the late 19th/20th centuries. In Philippe Ares book Centuries of Childhood: A Social History of
Family Life undertook a detailed historical study of the treatment of children in Western Europe
from the Middle Ages to the 19th century.
Aries argued that the modern concept of childhood was ‘discovered’ in Western Europe in the
17th century. Prior to this time, few distinctions were made between individuals on the basis of
age, and young ppl were fully integrated into the mainstream of social life. This shows that the
concept of childhood as it is known today did not exist in Western Europe in the Middle Ages.
Aries also argued that the very high infant mortality rate that existed in the 17th century
discouraged parents from wanting to invest emotionally in their children. This attitude of
indifference toward children protected parents from the otherwise tragic loss they would feel.
Aries argued that despite the high mortality rate and lack of emotional investment, children
living prior to the 17th century were likely happier than they were in later periods. Because pre-
17th century Western European society was not preoccupied with raising the young and severely
restricting their lives. Aries claimed that much of the status ambiguity and inter-generational
conflict that now exists because of the way children are treated in modern Western society did
not exist before the ‘discovery’ of Western childhood. Rather than repressing, judging, or
attempting to protect children with a special set of moral rules, adults shared all aspects of
existence with them.
Lamar Empey relies on Aries’s research to provide support for the argument that ‘it was not until
Europe began to awaken from the intellectual hibernation and social stagnation of the Middle
Ages that a handful of moral philosophers began to question the customary treatment of children,
whereby children were once exploited, but 2-3 centuries later this ideology was replaced with a
concern for their moral welfare. This grew the modern concept of childhood stressing the idea
that children have value in their own right and that because of their sweetness and simplicity,
they require a careful preparation for the sinfulness of an adult world, it was only after childhood
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became a special status in the life cycle that the concept of a court for juveniles began to
develop.
However, there remain to be several concerns about the validity of Aries’s thesis on a number of
grounds. The most damaging of these concerns is the manner in which Aries allowed his
personal religious and ideological beliefs about the role of parents in child rearing and the need
to maintain traditional conservative values to bias his historical analysis. In addition historians
like Beatrice Gottlieb show that it is misleading to talk about how the discovery of childhood as
having occurred at a specific point in time since they both historically and recently adults have
displayed ambiguity in their thinking about the definition and treatment of children and youth.
In her study the Family in the Western World from the Black Death to the Industrial Age,
Beatrice Gottlieb provides examples that illustrate how ambiguous the category of youth was in
Western countries prior to the 19th century. Prior to the 19th century, young ppl were subject to
full parental authority as long as they were under the parental roof and the father’s legal authority
usually continued after they left home. It was impossible for single ppl to be considered adults
unless they were married or entered the celibate clergy. The adulthood for women was an even
more ambiguous matter, the only grown women who could function as full legal adults were
widows under certain circumstances. Since most ppl did not marry until their mid-20s, a chunk
of the population drifted into no-man’s land between childhood and adulthood (youth).
While changing adult sensibilities about childhood in 17th century Europe may have had some
influence on thinking about the need for a different way of dealing with juvenile delinquency,
there were many other local, national, and more broadly international influences that need to be
taken into account. It is important to note common facts about how the juvenile delinquents
were dealt with in the legal systems of Western countries before the creation of specialized
delinquency legislation and juvenile courts.
Precursors to the Creation of Delinquency Legislation and Juvenile Courts:
The term juvenile delinquency was first used in the 18th century, primarily as a legal term to
describe ‘ violations of the law by persons below the community’s legal age of adulthood’. By
the 19th century, the term was in widespread use, and new juvenile justice systems had begun to
be put into place in order to deal with the special needs of perceived delinquent children. One
thing to note is that it is not true that prior to the development of juvenile courts young offenders
were dealt with in the same fashion as adult offenders. Historians have looked at English-based
crim courts in common law jurisdictions prior to the 19th century have shown that the severity of
crim law was often mitigated by sympathetic juries and judges who showed mercy to those
accused of serious crimes. Also, young ppl who were accused of crimes that made them liable to
the same punishments as adults were usually shown an even greater degree of mercy than adults.
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