JUVENILE DELINQUENCY-A REASSESSMENT FROM THE PAST
1.1 Background to the Study
Juvenile delinquency is that behaviour on the part of children which may, under the law, subject those children to juvenile court. Tappan (1972:12) assert that “the nature of juvenile delinquency sprang up from different abnormal behaviour such as stealing, drunkenness, burglary, robbery, rape, homicide, idleness, truancy, prostitution, disobedience, running away from home, kleptomanism and sexual promiscuity. Furthermore, it is nothing but a fact to say that juvenile offenders who after serving a good or complete numbers of his or her punishment in prison and still continue in deviance is because they are associated with adult prisoners. In this regard Mr. Sanusi, project Director of Lawyers continued Education Project (LAWCEP) maintained that “in our society, where the process of trial is delayed unduly, the young offender spends more time with hardened criminals than elsewhere.
Different forms of delinquency have been with man as far back as we can think but modern trends have made them take a very sharp rise. Glucks (1959) found out that juvenile delinquency is not a new occurrence during adolescent years but rather a continuation of anti-social behaviours from childhood due to environmental subjections or family problems affecting his mental development. That is to say that there exit a close link between delinquency and the home environment of the juvenile. The earliest known code of laws (the Code of Hammurabi) took specific note of the duties of children to parents and prescribed punishments for violations. As legal systems were elaborated, the age of offenders continued to be important in defining responsibility for criminal behaviour.
The Nigerian constitution of 1979 defines juvenile delinquency as “a crime committed by a young person under the age of 18 years as a result of trying to comply with the wishes of his peers or to escape from parental pressure or certain emotional stimulation’. Before a youth in Nigeria is classified a delinquent, he must have been arraigned before a juvenile court and proved to be guilty of some offences. Examples of such offences are habitual truancy, drug addiction, prostitution, stealing, cultism, armed robbery etc. The consequences that juvenile delinquency has caused to Nigerian society are not only devastating but numerous. They destroy both lives and property and they also retard the growth of this country.
Juvenile delinquency has also contributed to the bad image of our country (Nigeria). For the fact that most of the delinquent want to get rich quick, corruption and ritual killings has become the order of the day in coming to our political sphere, they have turn politics into a do or die affair where thuggery and fighting is the norm. This has made politics in our country (Nigeria) a dangerous venture.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
If an investigation or a study is carried out about juvenile delinquency in Nigeria, the result will definitely show that cases like rampant stealing, armed robbery, prostitution, manslaughter, drug addiction, vandalization, truancy, murder, rape, cultism, burglary and kleptomanism and many other crimes and delinquent behaviour are common among the youth.
Because of the alarming rate of juvenile delinquency in our country today, governments, parents, guidance, sponsors, teachers, moralists and well meaning Nigerians have all picked interest on its adverse effects in our society. Also the increasing waves of juvenile delinquency in our country place lives, properties and future of our youth at stake. For example, in 1989, records of crime as reported by the Lagos state police command revealed that youths between the ages of thirteen (13) and twenty one (21) were responsible for adult. 13,782 out of 26,259 crimes committed this year i.e. 1989 were juvenile. Such crime ranges from shop looting, drug abuse, fighting, raping and stealing etc.
The similar report also indicated that in the same year (1989) out of 43,000 prisoners serving in various Nigerian prisons, over 23,000 of them were aged between the ages of thirteen (13) and twenty five (25) years. Therefore, this study seeks to look at the nature, consequences and extent of juvenile delinquency in Nigeria among our youth.
1.3 Research Questions
The following research questions were used to guide this study:
1. Why do juvenile engage in delinquent acts?
2. Why do juvenile offenders continue in crime after being punished or sanctioned?
3. How can Nigerian government improve or educate youth or juvenile about crime?
4. What are the negative impacts of delinquent or crime on individual and society at large?
1.4 Objective of the Study
The objective of this study is as follows:
1. To find out the extent why juvenile engage in delinquent acts.
2. To ascertain the extent juvenile offenders continue in crime after being punished or sanctioned.
3. To find out what Nigerian government need to do in order to improve or educate juvenile about crime.
4. To determine the negative impact of crime on individual and society at large.
1.5 Significance of the Study
The study looks at the nature and consequences of juvenile delinquency in Nigeria. In all ramifications, the study does not claim the fact that all Nigerian juvenile are criminals or culprits or law violators so to say.
The study is very beneficial to learning and development processes and helps our youth to be aware of those things that may lead them to delinquent acts and avoid them. The study will also help parents, guidance, sponsors etc to know those things they need to do inorder to prevent their children from so called delinquent acts.
The study goes a long way to unleash those things our government needs to do inorder to educate our juvenile and prevent them from future delinquent acts. In conclusion, this study is significant because it seeks to determine to what extent juvenile commit crime, why they continued in delinquent act and as well as the result of their delinquent acts to themselves and society at large.
1.6 Definition of Terms
Nature: This is defined as the usual way a person or an animal behaves that is part of their character.
Consequence: This simply means a result of something that has happened.
Juvenile: This refers to a person who has attained the age of 14 but is under 17 years. That is a young person who is not yet an adult (Oxford English Dictionary).
Delinquent: It is a person who deviates from or violated the stipulated law that guides code of conduct of a particular country or society.
Juvenile Delinquency: Andy (1960:30) defined it as any social deviation by a youth from the societal norms which results in his contact with law enforcement agents. It is an act committed by a young person which violated the stipulated law of that country or society.
Burglary: It is defined as a crime of entering a building illegally and stealing things from it.
Robbery: It is defined as a crime of stealing money or goods from a bank, shop/store, person etc especially using violence or threat.
Rape: This is simply a crime of forcing somebody to have sex with him/her especially using threat or violence.
Homicide: This simply means a crime of killing somebody deliberately.
Stealing: This means an act of taking something from a person’s shop/store, etc. without permission and without intending to return it or pay for it.
Truancy: This simply means a practice of staying away from school without permission. It is a crime to juvenile.
Disobedience: This is defined as a failure or refusing to do what a person, law, order etc. tells.
Kleptomanism: It is simply a mental illness in which somebody has a strong desire, which they cannot control in stealing things. It is common among juvenile.
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