Juvenile and Mental Illness Essay Example

The development of the brain is an important aspect of the decisions that people make every day. As a juvenile your brain is not fully developed, affecting the process of decision making. Brain Development is an essential part of a child’s health. The experiences that children go through at a young age can determine how the brain develops. Abuse and neglect play huge roles within that process. Repetitive abuse leads to a poor understanding of how one should be treated and leads to mental illness more often than not. When all a child knows is abuse it is common for them to engage in delinquency. The treatment and family connections that a child has can deter or guide them to or from a life of crime. Children within the juvenile justice system are often affected by mental illness and abuse that, most of the time, goes unnoticed when looking at their motives and punishments that they may receive. Overall, the system should develop more ways to help these children affected by abnormal brain development, mental illness and abuse to help deter these young individuals from a life of crime, before it is too late. 

In the 1800’s, children were treated differently than they are today. They were more often than not, used as tools for labor. Juveniles were not valued, they were used, and many times not cared for. Along with this treatment came the idea of the “Super Predator”. This term was used to describe juvenile delinquents. Throughout the political world, people were taught that children were people to fear instead of people that we should try to help and protect. What is important to look at when discussing juvenile delinquents is where they come from and their mental development. The at home life of juveniles plays a huge role in how they act and the morals that are installed within them, and their mental development not being fully complete can cause decisions to be made without the intent to commit a crime. As the juvenile justice system continues to change and improve, for the sake of the children, there needs to be more involvement and efforts to rehabilitate and hopefully change their lifestyle, while still punishing to prove a point that it is not acceptable. 

Again, In the 1800’s, many children were used as objects and tools typically for labor. They were not treated as kids are today and did not get the childhood that most youth do now. Because children were small it made them easy targets to use for labor, it was easier for them to reach through things and use their hands in cramped spaces in factories. However, as you can imagine, this was extremely dangerous and unhealthy working conditions, especially for children. Due to the treatment of youth in this era, morals and lessons were not taught as they should have been. Children did not learn the typical right from wrong lessons that most children now do. They didn’t experience much quality time with their parents, often leaving them not cared for leaving them alone and to feel unwanted. 

Next, the juvenile justice system and the adult justice system were not always separate. It has taken many years to turn the juvenile justice system in to the system that it is today. This is supported by the author of Juvenile Justice: A System Divided when he states, “The juvenile justice system of the United States has evolved over the past 100 years, beginning with the emergence of the first juvenile court in Cook County, Illinois, in 1899. The system was established to provide dispositions targeting the rehabilitative needs of the offender rather than issuing punitive sentences based on the seriousness of the offense” (Hilton, 2007). What Hilton is saying in this part of the article is that, over the past years the juvenile justice system is growing and changing to benefit the lives of the youth offenders. The purpose of the juvenile justice system is not necessarily to punish them, much like the adult system is, but more to rehabilitate them in hopes that they will detour their life from a life of crime. On the same page, agreeing with the statement made by Hilton is the History of juvenile justice article, it states, “The early juvenile courts shared with reform schools the same desire to rehabilitate rather than to punish juvenile offenders” (History of Juvenile Justice, n.d.). Both articles agree that children deserve to have a second chance at life and, depending on their offense of course, deserve to be rehabilitated more than punished. 

After the delinquency of juveniles was predicted to spike, many years down the road, the political view on children quickly turned. Many politicians fed the community “facts'' about why juveniles were soon to become the ones we should be fearing. In the textbook, Juvenile Justice and Delinquency,  it states, “… the renewed push to punish and incarcerate young people was fueled by a “moral panic” about the dangers posed of “crack babies” and the phony claims of a new dangerous class that was labeled as “superpredators” by politicians of varying ideological positions'' (Krisberg, 2018).  Those unfamiliar with these ideas were brought to a panic.

After politicians presented their theory of the “superpredator”, children became what people feared. Instead of trying to protect and help children in need of the care, they were feared and punished instead of being put in rehabilitation programs like they tend to now. Eventually it was proved that this theory was false and beyond ridiculous. Just because of the acts of some does not mean that all juveniles would engage in criminal activity. When it is thought about, adults commit crimes but that does not cause us to fear that every person will do the same. The idea that children would begin to change that, just does not make sense. Just because a child commits a crime should not cause us to fear all children. Of course adults that have committed crimes we tend to fear but that doesn’t cause us to fear all adults that we come into contact with, so why should we fear all juveniles based on a minority of them that creates these worries? 

Overall, the importance of a rehabilitation focus on youth delinquency instead of punishment will create better opportunities for the juveniles however, the changes that need to be made within the system have not been completely made to the extent that they need to be. At a young age it is often hard to tell right from wrong. When growing up the morals, that some may think are a given, are not always taught to every child. Giving children the help that they need to get on the right path and to steer them away from a life of delinquency will, in the long run, help to benefit not only that child and their family but the community as well. To teach right from wrong will always be necessary but punishing children without offering the help for them to improve and change their ways, does not make the situation better for them or for society. 

Brian development plays a major role in the ability for one to have correct decision-making skills. At a young age your brain is not even close to being fully developed and sometimes it never does develop fully. As a child, since the brain is “underdeveloped”, when making decisions or engaging in actions, they do not think or know about the consequences of those actions. Although the child is still guilty of his or her actions and should still be punished for those actions, the capability of them to completely understand right from wrong depending on the age, is not completely there.

They are responsible physically, but mentally it is hard to tell and prove. Everyone’s brain tends to develop at different times and to different extents by certain ages, even though we still have standards for children at certain ages. Yes, most of the time the brains of children that are around the same age have close to the same development, but there are times where children are extremely behind and sometimes they never do fully develop these understandings that are crucial to their mental health and morals. This leads to mental disabilities and the ability to possibly never understand and learn certain things or behaviors, becomes present. Due to their misunderstanding of right from wrong and not knowing morals that most juveniles and people would know, it can lead them to delinquency. Although they may not have the intent, they commit these actions before they think about it or even understand what they are actually doing in that exact moment. 

Mental illness is another factor to be added to the process of considering punishments for juveniles that enter the juvenile justice system. When juveniles enter the system, their mental stability is often not considered. Children that suffer from mental disabilities many times do not get the help that they need outside of the system or in the system. Most of the time their mental disabilities go unnoticed when they enter the system, depriving them of the help that they need.

Children with mental disabilities do not know how to handle what they feel inside because there is no explanation and often nothing done to help them cope with the way that they feel. Incarceration for juveniles with mental illnesses just makes matters worse and without treatment during their incarceration, it is hard to get better after they get out of the system. Solitary confinement is another issue that does not help children with mental illnesses. Solitary confinement is hard enough for adults without mental illness let alone, juveniles with mental illnesses. Having to stay in a cell for twenty-three hours and only getting one hour out of that cell a day, is hard for anyone to do and is enough to drive someone absolutely insane, leaving them with mental damage. If a youth with a mental illness is locked in a confined space for twenty-three hours a day their mental health is going to plummet even further. 

Children that suffer from neglect and abuse throughout their lives, know nothing but that. Abuse leaves children with mental, physical and emotional scars that never go away. Delinquency is extremely common when it comes to children that have suffered from abuse in the past and that are going through it currently. It is proven that family relationships have an impact on the likelihood that a juvenile becomes involved in delinquency. If a child has a good relationship with their parents it is likely, although not certain, that they will stay away from delinquency.

With that being said, children that do not have good relationships with their families and or their parents, have the tendency to get involved in delinquency sometimes because they do not care what their family will have to say about it or what they think about it or because they want to go against what their parents would want for them. When a child goes through abuse and or neglect that is all that they know. They do not learn morals, or have a good relationship with their families, as you can only imagine. When all they know or have learned is violence, that is what they tend to carry out throughout themselves, and even to release anger that they have built up due to home life. (OVC) Another factor is opportunities that one is given. Children that are victims of abuse are not given the same opportunities as children that have a good home life and family connections. When they see what other children are given or have the potential to have, they may get jealous or even angry. When they don’t have the opportunity for these same things, they sometimes decide to get them through other means, such as stealing, or even violence towards the others that have what they do not and what they want. 

The juvenile justice system was originally created to rehabilitate juveniles in hopes to deter them from a life of crime, whereas the adult system was set strictly to punish. Although that was the main goal of the juvenile justice system that is not always what happens. Like I previously stated, when juveniles enter the system their mental health often goes unnoticed. When a child does not get the proper help for their illness, if that was a factor in why the crime was committed, then they are likely to do it again and again. Becoming a repeat offender is the exact opposite of what the intentions are within the juvenile justice system. There should be more programs put into place to help children with mental illnesses so when they get out, they know how to handle their impulses in other ways, rather than committing crimes and living a life of delinquency. Again, like I had said earlier, solitary confinement is the furthest thing from helping to rehabilitate a child that has a mental disorder or disability and even those that do not. These types of punishments can be harmful to the youth and again, the goal is to help them to see a different path other than delinquency, not make them and the situations that they are in worse than they already are. 

In conclusion it is hard for children that are affected by mental illness, mental disabilities and abuse or neglect, to sometimes understand how their actions affect others and even themselves. Although their actions often can not be justified it is unfair to allow these children to suffer without getting the help that they do not always know they need, in order to deter from the life of crime and be put on a better path. These juveniles must understand that what they have done is not okay and yes, they should be punished for it to some extent, but they should be provided with programs to help them get better and learn to handle their emotions in other ways besides crime and violence.

While these juveniles’ brains are still developing it is important to show them and provide them with help for the things that they can not control such as issues with their mental health. If we are able to show them other ways to deal with these issues and are able to deter them from living a life of crime, then we would be providing our future generations with exactly what they need. Children that feel alone need to know that they are not alone and need to feel that there are people willing to help them and not give up on them. The reasons some of these kids commit these crimes are just that. They feel alone, helpless and as if no one cares. The lack of these things that children should always have, should be the same reasons we are able to stop them, by giving to them what every child should never have to ask for.



We are glad that you like it, but you cannot copy from our website. Just insert your email and this sample will be sent to you.

By clicking “Send”, you agree to our Terms of service and Privacy statement. We will occasionally send you account related emails. x close