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African American & Societys Influence

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I. Introduction

We can begin to draw comparisons and highlight distinctions about the meaning

attached to youth violence, from the modern era to present day. Based on this meaning,

we are able to understand the myriad of ways delinquent juveniles are affected by certain

policies. Specifically, African Americans are over-represented in the juvenile justice

system of Cook County, Chicago. Thus, they are a vulnerable population that is singled

out by the system, and this further exacerbates and stigmatizes them.

II. Historical Background: Children As Villains In Modern America

Until the late 19th century, children were tried in criminal courts with adults. According to common law, the law regarded children under the age of seven, as still in the infancy stage of moral development, while those over the age of fourteen, were morally developed and thus responsible for criminal offenses.

An early response, to the reasoning of juvenile delinquency, was that the blame was directed at the child. Children faced harsh punishment, such as prison and death. Eventually, reform efforts were established to provide a more acceptable approach. The Society for the Reformation of Juvenile Delinquents, viewed delinquents as needing a place to rehabilitate, and punishment was built in (Shepherd). As a penalty, the children worked an 8-hour day at trades and attended school for another 4 hours. Records reveal that many of them had not committed any criminal act, and a number of juvenile delinquents could be categorized as committing status offenders (Shepherd). Juveniles were susceptible to court hearings that were informal, and the ideology was based on the principle that judges will act as a parental guide, and provide an approach to guide children.

In addition, another response to the growing concern of youth delinquency was with the establishment of the first juvenile court system created in Cook County, Chicago. This act was unique, since it attempted to reduce the stigma of juvenile crime and create a new approach for the process of offenders. They philosophized that children were not to be treated as criminals but in need of encouragement.

III. Current View of Juvenile delinquency

Over the decades, the perspective of juvenile delinquency has seemed to intensify,

as it has been regarded as an epidemic. Youth violence has appeared to proliferate in

some areas, such as Chicago, Illinois. For the urban African American youth in this

segment, violence is the context of daily life. The Youth in this region witness it, barely

escape it, and become caught up in it. They are vulnerable to the disorganized

community they live in, since deteriorating buildings attract criminal behavior.

One of the most critical inter-group tensions is gang violence. There are some

predominantly African American gangs in Chicago that constantly fight one another.

Some of these gangs include the "Gangster Disciples" and the "Black Disciples"

( These two gangs occupy the Southside neighborhoods and are

constantly at war with each other. This means they are involved in fighting, violence,

and even murdering one another. These gangs on the Southside account for the high

numbers of murders in this area. In 2002, there was an average of five murders each

month in this area alone (Sheney, 2004). It can be deduced that many of these murders

were gang-related.

As crime has sharply proliferated in Cook County, there are organizations that have created a mission statement to support and dedicate their time and energy, in the hopes of deterring youth from criminal activity. The National Black Association of Chicago provides several programs to cater to the needs of African American youth. Such programs provide educational support, professional development, and several other outreach initiatives. This indicates that Chicago cares about the current perception of delinquent youth, and desires to offer stable programs to engage them in more productive activities.

IV. Conservative & Liberal Perspective's on Juvenile delinquency

From a conservative perspective, they would label Juvenile delinquency as a deviant act. Juvenile delinquents have created a subculture that provides them with motives, reasons, and justifications that enable them to account for their involvement in proscribed activities. Within this subculture they have developed a rational to justify their misdeeds, during times when they are brought under scrutiny by police, courts etc. For instance, when youth engage in a crime, and are charged with a criminal offense, they deny their involvement. What youth fail to realize, is that as they engage in criminal acts, they disrupt the fabric of society.

In this respect, youth have not been able to take good advantage of the bountiful resources that Cook, County Chicago has to offer. It appears that youth in this community, are failures in academia because they lack effective coping mechanisms to pull themselves together during difficult times. There are always safety nets for these youth to be cushioned by, although they are easily lured into a lifestyle of crime.

On the other hand, a liberal perspective would criticize the social problems as inherent in the stereotypes, biases, and discriminatory tendencies, which are embedded in institutions encompassing Cook County. These youth are not provided with appropriate tools to succeed in life, education etc., because structural disadvantages exist. There are too few positive stimuli, such as community resources, and far too may negative stimuli, such as the deteriorating community. If we can develop programs to intervene at an early stage, than we can unite the community to understand that juvenile delinquency



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