Chapter 1: What is Delinquency and How Does it Differ from Adult Crime
• Juvenile Delinquency refers to violations of the criminal law by minors. A minor
is anyone under the age of 16,17 or 18 depending on the state.
• Delinquency is breaking the law between 1217 years who break the law.
◦ If a minor commits an act that would be a crime when committed by an
adult, that minor has engaged in juvenile delinquency and may be
considered a juvenile delinquent.
◦ Delinquent acts are committed by minors while crime is committed by
• Juveniles and adults are treated differently because there is a developmental stage
that youth go through
Juvenile Delinquents are viewed differently than just adult criminals
• Society tends to view juvenile delinquents differently than adult criminals
• if a juvenile breaks the law, the general public tends to view that person as
immature and in need of our guidance and help.
• If an adult breaks the law, we generally view that person as someone who is
responsible for his or her behaviour and deserves to be punished.
• There is no precise definition of immaturity but notions of immaturity usually
◦ the individuals did not know that what they were doing were wrong
◦ they did not appreciate the harm their actions might cause
◦ they could not control themselves
◦ they were easily led astray by others
• Older juveniles are no longer closely supervised by parents and they must
increasingly learn to make decisions on their own lack experience at decision
• When we say that society views juvenile delinquents differently than adult
criminals, an important exception should be noted older, serious juvenile
offenders are viewed like adult offenders.
Youth Justice Legislation Primer
• Juvenile Delinquents Act (1908 1984)
◦ State acting like a parent to treat delinquents as misguided children and
not criminals. Justice system was prone to the arbitrariness of parents
▪ Problems in terms of status offences
◦ The maximum age differed across provinces (between 1618) in Alberta, it
different for boys (16) and girls (18) until 1978
• Young Offenders Act (YOA) (19842003)
◦ Focus on accountability, due process, protection of society (and others)
◦ Not so much on guiding youth and rehabilitation.
◦ Far more use of youth custody and given custody than was necessary.
◦ Not too much support because putting people in custody does not result in
◦ Custodial rates reached a very high level by late 90s which is why there
was a rethink of juvenile system • Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA) (2003 Present)
◦ Focus on prevention, rehabilitation/reintegration, control of serious/violent
crimes, restorative justice, extrajudicial
◦ Diversion from custody and control the serious violent crimes
◦ Whatever we can do to keep them out of custody
◦ Finding a way to rehabilitate without court.
◦ Victim offender reconciliations if they are engaging in serious acts, they
should receive appropriate treatment
• With the current government, there is a push towards greater punitives
◦ Bill C10 made it possible to lift publication bands modifies aspects of the
act, does not replace YCJA
◦ Watered down what is eligible for custodial sentence and not custodial
(custodial is not helpful)
• Criminal Justice Policy
• Conservatives are wrong
• When a section of society is removed, they are not able to support their family,
not able to find jobs. They do not protect society and is not helping them
• Increase of punishment for drug laws
Rates and Severity of Youth Crime Dropping
• Number of crimes charged dropped in 2003.
• Rate of youth offending dropped.
• Youth severity levels are also dropping
Juvenile Delinquents are Treated differently that adult criminals
Special Laws for Juveniles: Status Offences
• Juveniles are delinquent if they commit any act wholes violation by an adult
would be a crime homicide, assault, rape, robbery, burglary and larceny
◦ things that are illegal for a particular group because they are part of that
◦ meant to correct and guide behaviour of those on the wrong path.
• In most states, juveniles can be arrested and referred to juvenile court for acts that
are legal for adults status offences
◦ they only apply to people with the status of juvenile
• Most common status offences are running away from home, failure to attend
school (truancy), refusing to obey parents (incorrigibility), drinking alcohol,
violating curfew, engaging in consensual sexual activities
◦ illegal for juveniles but legal for adults
• State felt it was necessary to intervene when juveniles gave indications that they
might be heading down the "Wrong path" that leads to crime and not just if a
crime is committed • Status offence laws were taken seriously and were formally processed by court
where they could be "adjudicated". or be judged "delinquent
• Especially likely amongst females and their sexual behaviour was closely
• Females who committed status offences were more like to be arrested, referred to
court and sent to institutions
◦ Sentences based on characteristics of individuals instead of characteristics
of effects. This hurt females who were punished more than males.
◦ Charges that it was unfair and this inconsistency was not correct. Just
because of where they lived or who they were they had been given
• Status offence laws came under criticism during 60s and 80s vague
◦ Subjected juveniles who had not committed any criminal acts to severe
penalties like confinement in an institution
◦ Evidence that poor, minority and female juveniles were more likely
• Most states developed "diversion" programs to divert status offenders from
juvenile court and were dealt with informally
• Status offenders were no longer delinquents but Children in Need of Supervision
or Persons in Need of Supervision
• Federal government passed a law in 1974 encouraging states to stop placing status
offenders in institutions.
• Few states decriminalized status offences and hence could no longer result in
arrest and referral to juvenile court dealt with by social service agencies
◦ Still illegal in almost all states
A Special Court for Juveniles: Juvenile Court
• Juvenile court differs from adult court in many ways
• Goals of juvenile court are different from those of adult court
◦ adult court determines if individuals are guilty and punishes them if so
◦ Juvenile court was not set up to punish but guide and help them
◦ Court is supposed to act in the best interests of juveniles and provide them
with guidance and help
◦ Today, role has changed to place more emphasis on punishing juveniles
older, serious offenders.
◦ Juvenile court still places more emphasis on rehabilitation than adult court
• Focuses more on the offender than on the offence