Monday, 7 October 2013

IF IT FITZ: Juvenile Justice - What About The Alternatives

I've decided that my Blog efforts are going to be under the umbrella of IF IT FITZ:

As outlined earlier, my IF IT FITZ blog is simply a social commentary on subjects that either effect us all in our daily lives, or in which I have a thought or belief in.

IF IT FITZ is in no way meant to be a conduit of any form of racism, sexism or discrimination and as such, will not be tolerated in any way, shape or form.

Feel free to comment/discuss/dissect the blog subjects, after all, as an open forum, your opinion and thoughts are welcomed and encouraged ;-)

My first topic for discussion is a rather hot topic at the moment - how to deal with juvenile offenders and their continued offending in regards to petty and/or property crime and serial offending.

Here in Australia, you can not name any offender who has committed a crime as a juvenile. In most Australian states and territory's, the gloves come off at either age 17 or 18 but until then the convicted juveniles records are sealed unless they apply for certain employment opportunities, in which case all their previous illegal activities are an open book.

As with most western and dare I say it - civilized societies, all criminal activities contain three seemingly separate elements, that on their own do not seem to be related, but taken collectively, need to be addressed in order to resolve the subject in question.

Those three elements are (a) the Justice system, (b) the environment and (c) the individual.

ELEMENT A: Justice
Justice can be many things to many different people. It is a fine line between the application of law and utilizing common sense, without a decisions being clouded by loss, anger or grief. Like myself, most people are fed up with the courts perceived "revolving door" treatment of habitual and continuous offenders. I'm especially fed up with offenders being on bail/probation/parole who subsequently re-offend and are convicted, but are not having to complete the original head sentence.

The justice system is littered with elements that seem to feed of each other. The Police who bring the offenders to court, then there are the do-gooders who think the offender is a "misunderstood soul in need of some space, time and support" while the lawyers and judges have come from a some what sheltered background of secondary and University education.

Funnily enough, here in Townsville, a judge who had a reputation for being soft on juvenile crime, seemingly changed his stance overnight on the sentencing of offenders. Not sure if it had anything to do with his two cars being stolen from his house, when the offenders broke into his house and took the keys while he was in bed and sleeping with his wife.

ELEMENT B: Environment
Most of the reported repeat juvenile offenders seem to come from a "non-structured" home environment. One can only surmise that the elements of a stable home are not either in place or functioning. This is whole different subject matter as I know of several generations of "welfare families" who have no intent, reason or drive to be contributing positively to society, other then exhausting all avenues of government funds and services to benefit themselves.

Yes, I know some kids from seemingly good homes, go off the rails, but that comes down to the third element, but at the end of the day, the kid can simply be a "shit".

ELEMENT C: The Individual
This is possibly the hardest element as you are dealing with a human being that includes all the elements of who we are - passion, possessions, parenting, conscience, education, feelings, aspirations, wants & needs.

Personally, I believe that all people that I meet are inherently good people, until their actions calls into question that belief.

So, after outlining the problems, what are some of the solutions. I am not even going to bother broaching the subject of discussing what elements or options that may or not be available as it appears they are not adequate or enough of a deterrent.

What I would suggest is a simple "Three Strikes" rules for juveniles and that is based on a teenagers psyche and thought process.

That process is one of cause and effect - which every person on this planet clearly understands.

First Strike:
The juvenile offender fronts a judicial mediation in which they are to face the victim(s) in the presence both parents/guardians/carers. This measure is to ensure that the crime is not simply treated as "faceless" by the convicted juvenile. Depending on the crime, the court retains jurisdiction in assessing whether a good behavior bond, suspended sentence or incarceration is warranted.

Strike Two:
The juvenile offender is sent to a mediation meeting as outlined in First Strike then the matter is forwarded to Correctional Services for assessment in being admitted to a managed community work crew, a "chain gang" if you will. They will be dressed in pink overalls, gloves and protective eye-wear and walk the roads and highways picking up rubbish or supplying manual labour for community based projects such as urban beautification/renewal, park maintenance or upkeep, painting/graffiti removal etc etc etc

Operational hours are from 7:30AM to 4:30PM on weekends or any weekday that they offender is not actively participating in education or employment.

The offender and their parents/guardians/carers need to have the convicted offender on time, on site and on the ball or they will suffer the same fate, all be it on a different work crew.

All participants are subject to drug and alcohol testing, including the parents/guardians/carers

Strike Three:
If either the convicted offender or their parent/carer are under the influence of any illicit or illegal substance then they are charged with the offence, sit the "work crew" time in a holding cell for the rest of the directed sentence and then front the courts to be sentenced for the new offences.

There are numerous benefits to a proposal such as mine:

  •  Ask any teenager, they hate to be embarrassed. There's a fair chance that being seen in pink chain gang on the side of a busy road would reduce the under lying "I'm a hero" attitude most of the convicted teenagers have
  • If the convicted parties have walked 20 to 30 kilometers in a day, then they are less likely to want to go out that night and offend with their mates due to being tired or worn out.
  • Lunch is a sandwich and fruit prepared by prison industries. A $5.00 per day fee is to be paid to cover the costs. This is to be collected via electronic transfer and is levied on either the juveniles welfare payments or their respective parents/guardians/carers
  • Costs are considerable reduced as there are no correctional facilities to be built/staffed/maintained. Costs would be simply a couple of Correctional Officers, a mini-bus with a large drinking water vessel and a portable toilet on a trailer.
  • The community benefits from not having to pay for projects that are often low priority or fiscally unviable.
Do I care about the convicted juveniles "shame job" factor or their "remorse" that is solely related to that fact that they got caught and not that they were active participants in the the criminal activity. No, I do not.

Where is the victim in all this? Where is the assistance for people who do not feel safe in their own homes or who have their vehicles stolen and destroyed, but can't replace it due to having no insurance, as they are struggling financially themselves?

What do you think?