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Violent Juvenile Offenders

Criminal and Civil Parental Liability Attached to Parents of Violent Juvenile Offenders Nancy Cadwallader Kaplan University Online CJ490-03 Research Methods October 27, 2009

Violent Juvenile Offenders

Abstract Juvenile offenders between the ages of 12 and 15 who perpetrate violent crimes are steadily rising in numbers. A significant contributing factor is abusive/neglectful parents; lack of parental ownership leads to delinquency which in turn directly correlates to violent juvenile offenders. This research proposal will demonstrate trying juveniles as adults does not work, nor does remanding them to juvenile detention centers or boot camps until they are age 21. The only logical conclusion left is to hold parents of juvenile violent offenders both criminally and civilly responsible for their childs behavior, which is the option that most criminalists, prosecutors, judges and the general public favor. Introduction Criminals are becoming younger and younger and a perplexing problem facing the legal system is how to deal with them; send them to a juvenile detention center to serve time for major offenses, or try them as adults. Generally juveniles over the age of 16 are tried as adults depending on statutory remedy, but the 10 to 15 year old age group becomes difficult to adjudicate as adults although few states do provide for this in their statutes. The numbers of 12 to 15 year olds committing violent offenses have been consistently rising at a staggering rate, and the underlying causal factors go largely ignored. The most significant causal factor identified in previous research is the effect of abusive/neglectful parents as the largest contributing factor of violent minor offenders. Recent years has seen parental liability laws enacted due to public outcry, however, civil sanctions are puny, unenforced, and ultimately ineffectual. Where are their parents and what responsibility should attach to them should their minor child rape, murder, or violently attack another person? Violent minor offenders are made through systematic intentional

Violent Juvenile Offenders

abuse and neglect; they are not born that way. Since a large body of evidence supports this as being causal; should parents be held criminally responsible for violent minor offenders? Most people are in favor of criminal and civil parental liability for violent minor offenders. Review of Literature: According to the FBIs UCR report for year 2000 offenders arrested under age 15 measured over 9 violent offense criteria was 146,198. The same exact report for year 2005 measuring the same 9 violent offense criteria was 287,429 offenders under the age of 15 arrested. The total arrested in 2005 under age 18 was slightly over one million. A startling trend identified is children under the age of 15 arrested for possessing/carrying a weapon doubled; age 15 and under for disorderly conduct came close to doubling between 2000 and 2005. 8 out of 9 violent offense criteria rose significantly including aggravated assault and sex crimes. Violent criteria studied; murder and non-negligent manslaughter, forcible rape, aggravated assault, arson-violent crime, other assaults, weapons, sex offenses, disorderly conduct. Other serious violent criteria was reported but not included here. Studies have consistently linked abusive/neglectful parents as significantly contributing to their child becoming a violent offender. Thornberry (1994) found that repeated maltreatment increased a childs chances of becoming violent by 24%, further; multiple forms of family violence doubles this risk. Official statistics of abused children taken from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families for year 2005: 3.3 million Referrals involving 6.0 million children (indicating multiple children may be abused by the same parent).

Violent Juvenile Offenders

55.8% are reported by professionals; teachers, police officers, lawyers, social service staff.

54.5% of victims were under 7 years of age. 62.8% suffered neglect. 16.6% suffered physical abuse. Only 25.2% could be legally substantiated with 0.0% intentionally false reports (U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, 2009).

Truancy Rates; National Scope of the Issue: Between years 1989-1998 juvenile courts saw an 85% increase in status offence cases, this represents a 61% increase in truancy rates. Metropolitan areas report thousands of students skip school each day without documentation or cause, many with the full complicity of parents. In the public school system truancy is highest in urban areas, while rural areas tend to enjoy lower truancy rates (U.S. Dept. of Education, 2009). These statistics appear to indicate that the problem may be grossly understated; approximately 1 million children between the ages of 12 and 17 are arrested for violent crimes each year, while approximately 6 million are reported as neglected/abused each year. The link between neglectful/abusive parents and violent juvenile offenders has been previously empirically demonstrated, so the natural conclusion is that 1 in 6 children is arrested for a violent crime, for many it is not the first time. While not all neglected/abused children resort to becoming violent offenders, the research statistics are clear that most do.

Violent Juvenile Offenders

According to James C. Backstrom (1999), a District Attorney in Minnesota who has written an insightful paper on prosecuting juveniles; there is a direct correlation between abusive parents and young children who become violent offenders, he goes on to state that laws should be enacted to punish parents for making a weapon available to a child to later use in the commission of a crime. He also cites several studies in which children and parents given early intervention services and education reduce delinquency and arrest by as much as half. From a legal perspective some do not like the idea of parental liability because in a small amount of cases of violent minor offenders, parents are not abusive/neglectfulshould they still be held responsible. According to the Law Firm of Jacob Rzepka (2009) who defends parents of minor criminal offenders the defining criminal criteria is Intent; is a child malicious in their intent, is a parent intentional in their abuse, is the parent the custodial parent, has the child been emaciated, was the child ever institutionalized. An abusive/neglectful parent is defined as one who has been identified by police, the childs school, or a child protective agency as having one or more instances of physical and/or emotional abuse and/or derelict in their responsibility to supervise, house, feed, cloth, or otherwise provide for their child. There has been considerable argument over whether to charge those under 15 as adults thereby relieving their parents by proxy of any criminal liability for their criminality. According to the MacArthur Foundation (2003) one third of 11 to 13 year olds and one fifth of 14 and 15 year olds could not understand the legal process enough to help their lawyers defend them. About 25,000 children a year have their cases sent to adult courts rather than being tried in juvenile courts, whose convicted defendants are usually set free by age 21 (MacArthur Study, 2003). This study directly addresses the issue of 11 year old murderers, however, it does not address the issue of parental liability or the issue of how children were determined not capable of

Violent Juvenile Offenders

understanding the legal system but capable enough to understand murdering, raping, or brutally assaulting another person. It is generally agreed upon that children who are delinquent from school for an extended period of time are uncontrollable, unsupervised, and unresponsive at home with parents. Delinquency directly correlates to youthful offenders of violent crime; the Colorado Youthful Offender System (YOS) report for (1994) stated that only 10% of youth entering the program had a GED or high school diploma. This program serves minor offenders of violent crimes between the ages of 14 and 17, their criminal sentences are suspended and they are given the opportunity to go through extensive boot camp like training to learn discipline, get an education, and how to handle authority. They also learn coping skills to make it on the outside and how to stay clear of their former criminal habits. The fact that only 10% of 14 to 17 year olds had a GED or diploma would lead a prudent person to conclude they have been delinquent for an extended period, leading one to also conclude their parents are absent from their life and they have been left to the streets unsupervised without rudimentary skills to function in an acceptable manner with the rest of society. For purposes of this study a delinquent is defined as a child who is chronically derelict/absent from school due to a lack a parental judgment, neglect/abuse and supervision. Proposed Solution: While it would be reasonably prudent to say that a 12 to 15 year old might not understand the legal system enough to defend their case, it would also be reasonable to conclude they did not have the self control enough to resist the impulse to commit a violent offense. Such concepts as self control, respect for authority, moral conduct, and societal norms are fundamental

Violent Juvenile Offenders

responsibilities that every parent is expected to teach their child. Trying a 12 year old for a violent offense as an adult and putting him/her in the general population with adults should not be the ultimate solution, nor should remanding them to juvenile detention until they are released when 21, both options have proved a failure and both options fail to address the underlying causeparental responsibility. Parents should be held criminally and civilly liable for violent minor offenders. There should be a national policy shift in favor of significant criminal and civil penalties for parents and their violent juvenile offender child. A parent is defined as one who is a custodial parent/guardian of a child. For purposes of this study a minor is defined as a child between the ages of 10 and 15. Research Design: The Quasi-experimental approach will be used because assignment to either the experimental group or the control group is not random; they are assigned based on a condition. This is a before-and-after design because the effects of the condition (treatment) are being measured. This non-experimental design is longitudinal; data are collected at two separate points in time to demonstrate that the IV is the cause and the DV is the effect. This study will also measure the two dichotomies of those juvenile violent offenders arrested as reported in the 2005 UCR; they either had a documented neglectful/abusive parent, or they did not. Cross referencing those arrested with reports of neglectful/abusive parents will help verify the causal link and suggest external validity. Sampling: Using police response reports, public school reports, and data from child protective services, a list can be compiled of 12 year olds identified as juvenile delinquents having

Violent Juvenile Offenders

abusive/neglectful Parents. From this sampling frame a non-probability sample using the Quota technique to make two groups of 200 in each group: 1st group are those children left in the care of their parents (control group). 2nd group are those children removed from their parents care (experimental group).

At the six month period after identification and/or removal from parents care; how many delinquents became violent offenders, how many are no longer delinquent? This technique is the most appropriate because the experimental and control groups must have an equal amount of children that remained with parents and were removed from parents. Randomly selecting 400 elements and assigning them to either group 1 or 2 might have created unequal groups, so they are matched according to the aggregate based on distributions of key variables (Bachman, Schutt, 2007, p.181). The second sample is a survey of juvenile court judges on whether they agree or disagree with criminal and civil parental liability for violent minor offenders under the age of 16. There are approximately 1,900 juvenile court judges in the U.S. and 100 can be selected for the survey by simple random sample of their membership. This would be a probability sample because we know the chance that any particular element can be selected. A third sample is also a survey of the general public asking only if they agree or disagree with criminal and civil parental liability for violent minor offenders under the age of 16. This would be a simple random sample based on census numbers for those between the age of 18 and 75. A sample of 200 people by phone would be representative of public opinion. This would also be a probability sample because there is list with which to draw from and the probability of being selected in known.

Violent Juvenile Offenders

Qualitative Methods: The last section of this proposal will include qualitative data using intensive interviews of the parents of identified juvenile delinquents between the ages of 10 and 15. Upon participation agreement, 200 parents would be selected based on their receptiveness to the subject of the study and their child represents moderate to chronic delinquency. Parents would be asked a series of open ended questions covertly aimed at such issues as parental quality, control parents had over their childs behavior, any previous violence issues with the child, educational level of parents and whether or not they have ever been arrested, if so do they have a criminal record. Field researchers would take some notes; however, each interview would be covertly recorded, transcribed and entered into a software database that would code words, phrases and concepts. The interviews would take place when the child is not present, if possible. The biggest ethical issue in a study of this nature are subject confidentiality; most of the elements/participants are minors, so the ramification of identity exposure is obvious. All elements/participants identity would be coded for confidentiality and their identity would be kept in a secure location, they would never become a published part of the study. References Bachman, R., Schutt, R. (2007). The practice of research in criminology and criminal justice. Thousand Oaks, California. Sage publications. Backstrom, J. (1999). A prosecutors perspective on addressing juvenile violence. Retrieved on

Violent Juvenile Offenders

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September 23, 2009 from http://www.co.dakota.mn.us/NR/rdonlyres/00000944/vfwrmjphttvgnvhiucdyjdebpiqhlme i/ProsecutorsPerspectiveJuvViolence.pdf Steinberg, L. (2003). MacArthur juvenile competence study. Retrieved on September 23, 2009 from http://www.mac-adoldev-juvjustice.org/page25.html Thornberry, T. (1994). Violent families and youth violence. Retrieved on September 28, 2009 from http://www.ncjrs.gov/txtfiles/fs-9421.txt (2000). Arrests by age, table 33. Retrieved on September 23, 2009 from http://www.fbi.gov/ucr/cius_00/00crime4.pdf (2005). Arrests by age. Retrieved on September 7, 2009 from http://www.fbi.gov/ucr/05cius/data/table_38.html (2009). Civil liability of children. Retrieved on September 7, 2009 from http://www.rzepkalaw.com/civil_liability_of_children.html (2009). Summary of Child Maltreatment. Retrieved on October 24, 2009 from http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb/pubs/cm05/summary.htm (2009). Truancy: A Serious Problem for Students, Schools, and Society. Retrieved on October 24, 2009 from http://www.ed.gov/admins/lead/safety/training/truancy/problem_pg17.html

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