Juvenile crimes have been on the rise in different countries in the world. Despite the wide concerted efforts to curb the rising wave of juvenile crimes, crime statistics are on the rise. In 1970s, the rising cases of juvenile crimes lead to enactment of strict laws meant to curb juvenile crimes but this has not been a solution either. The changing nature of society with the breakdown of social and moral fabric that have held the society together, coupled with increased proliferation of arms, have been attributed to the rising cases of juvenile crimes. Youths in their early teens have been forming teen gangs which terrorize people on the streets. While the society become more absorbed in their careers, parents are neglecting their child supervision duties and children are finding families on the street.
Despite the existence of strict youth punishment laws, Georgia has been experiencing rising cases of juvenile crimes. The international community and Georgia social welfare networks have been greatly concerned with the government effort to deal with rising cases juvenile crimes. The government has been criticized for enforcing zero-tolerance policies that imprison children in adult prisons. At the same time, the government counterargument is that there need to be strict measure in order to reduce the rising number of youngsters who are engaged in various crimes. As the debate continues, Georgians are suffering everyday from street attacks by juvenile criminals. The rising crime statistics is a call for the Georgian government to take measures that will tackle the high rate of youth crime since the strict punishment laws have not worked.
Georgia grappling with rising youth crimes
Georgia put in place strict juvenile punishment codes in 1970s in wake of rising youth crimes. This trend was replicated in different countries in the world despite the existence of international standards for punishment of juvenile offenders. However, this has not deterred the ever increasing number of juvenile offenders (Jeralyn, 2003). It is therefore clear the strict severe punishment may not be the exact answer to the problem that the society is facing regarding juvenile crimes. They have to take drastic measures that will tackle the problem from the family level.
It is the basic aim of every government to ensure that it offers maximum protection to its citizens. However, the Georgian government has not lived to this constitution provision. Over the years, the rates of crime have been spilling out of control and more children are engaging in acts of crime than ever.
Crime is a big problem facing Georgia as a whole. According to the recent statistics, it has been reviewed that;
- There is a violent crime which is committed after everyu 17 seconds
- Someone is murdered after every 23 minutes
- Someone is raped after every 5 minutes
- There is a robbery incidence after every 51 seconds
- There is an assault happening after every 28 seconds
- There is a motor vehicle theft after 20 seconds
- There is a burger incident after 14 seconds
These statistics reveal the grim picture of the crime situation in Georgia. While these statistics represent the total crime committed by both adult and youths, statistics reveal that there has been an increasing level of juvenile crimes as compared to the adult crime. This has been compounded by a flawed juvenile criminal justice system which instead of rehabilitating the youths assists them to graduate to hard core criminals (Eurasianet.org, 2007).
Since 2005, statistic shows that the number of children who have been prosecuted for various crimes has increased by more than 50 percent. According to the United Nations Children Fund report in 2007, most of these youths have been prosecuted for petty crimes like petty theft while a small number of them have been prosecuted for serous crimes.
In 2006, more than 37 percent of juvenile convicted ended up being imprisoned. This number was a 15 percent increase since 2000. It has been argued that the increased number of juvenile prosecution reflects the rising rates of juvenile crimes. This is also a reflection of the rising rate of adult crimes as well. (Eurasianet.org, 2007)
There are different factors that have been identified for the rising case of juvenile crimes in Georgia. One of the main causes of the increase rates of crime has been the breakdown of traditional values. While the society has failed to emphasize the strict discipline values children grow up absorbed in the money culture. With the case of poverty rising, children see a bleak future and the best they can do is to struggle to shape their current life. In most cases, children will depend on their basic instincts for survival including sex, aggression, and drugs to get instant pleasure.
The rising rates of crimes have lead to enactment of strict punishment for juveniles. There has been a widespread condemnation of increased number of killing of teenagers which has been covered by the media raising serious issues about youth violence. In 2008, Georgian government in returned has enacted stricter laws which have reduced the age for criminal responsibility from 14 to 12 years. (Jeralyn, 2003)
However, human rights watch groups have argued that enactment of strict laws for juvenile punishment is not a solution to the ever rising case of juvenile crimes. The Human Rights Groups argue that the existence of strict laws has not helped to solve the rising cases. This means that enactment of such laws is more likely to raise the level of juvenile crimes further aggravating the situation. The government needs to come up with alternative ways of taking care of children who are in conflict with the law.
Unlike other countries which have low criminal liability age, there are no efficient mechanisms of dealing with juveniles who are convicted of such crimes. There are no separate courts that exist for trying juveniles apart from the adult courts (Eurasianet.org, 2007). In many case, judges who find themselves at a loss for alternatives usually confine children in prisons as they await trial. In some cases, children can last in these prisons for more than one year. According to 2006 Human rights report, more than 179 or 1.17 percent of prisons population were children awaiting trial. This problem has been compounded by the rising number of children who have been found homeless.
However, Georgia has fallen short of development of such system like juvenile courts and juvenile judges which can be used to handle juvenile crime related cases. Therefore, children are tried in adult courts exposing them to adult criminal justice system (Jeralyn, 2003). The first important step for the country towards instituting an effective criminal justice system that follow the United Nations Conventions on the Rights of the Child. Since Georgia is a signatory to this document, it needs to live up to its signatory status.
The current detention and incarceration system in Georgia is short of expectation of any effective criminal justice system. The current system which incarcerates juveniles with the adult offenders can be attributed to the rising rate of recidivism in the sense that instead of correcting the behavior of the youths, it has led to increased rate of juvenile crime. The aim of any correction system should be to change the behavior of the youths and rehabilitate them from crimes. However, the current Georgia system leads to hardening of youths who may repeat the crimes after they are release from prisons. In most case, youths who were convicted for minor crimes are incarcerate tighter with adult offender who have been convicted of serious crimes (Eurasianet.org, 2007). These youths end up becoming hardened criminals.
The responsibility to maintain a sound criminal justice system lies with the police department which should be given the main responsibility of handing youths. However, Georgians police have not been well trained on how to handle juveniles in the street promoting more conflicts between police and the youths. According to the theories of crime, situational prevention crime theory and community policing have been cited as some of the most effective methods to prevent crime. In situation prevention crime theory, the presence of police patrol is not enough to deal the juvenile crime but there has to be an engagement between the police and the youths in the street to ensure that they both understand the other (Rimple, 2006). At the same time, the police patrol need to work with the rest of the community in order to help youths desist from high level of crimes. As a part of its police reforms, Georgia abolished an Internal Ministry Organization that had put in place preventative programs that engaged the police and the youths. There is need to bring back some of these programs to enhance understanding between the two.
At the same time, lack of crime prevention organizations has been cited as another major problem leading to increased rate of crimes. The government needs to come up with an effective budget that would make it possible to have crime prevention organization that would work with the youths. These programs should however be put in place at the local levels in order to create more engagement with the youths.
At the same time, the Georgian government has been working closely with the ministry of education to implement “safe program”. This program is aimed at educating the youth on crime and at the same time it would to installation of metal detectors and video cameras in urban secondary schools to monitor youths (Eurasianet.org, 2007). Research has proved that public surveillance has been effective in reducing the overall rate of crime. This program should however be put together alongside other extra-curricula activities which would ensure child are kept busy and off the streets.
The increased youth crime in Georgia is a call for the government and the whole community in general to come up with a clear working mechanism that would table the root of the problem. Increased and prolonged incarceration is not a solution to the problem. While the government can argue for lack of enough facilities to incarcerate youth offenders, incarcerating them together with adult offender is not an ultimate solution to the high rate of crimes. Parents need to take respnsiblity while the government has to come up with working measure to uplift the life of youths.
Despite having harsh punishment for juvenile crime, Georgia has continued to experience an increase in the number of youth offenders. Sine 2005, the number of youth offenders has been increasing each and every year. This has been contributed by a number of factors including a flawed correction system which incarcerate youths with adult offenders, lack of parent responsibility, and increased access to simple and crude weapons. In order to fight the high rate of juvenile crime, the government needs to come up with effective programs that engage the youths to deter them from crime while parents need to take up their parenting responsibility.
Eurasianet.org, (2007). Georgia grapples with rising teenage crime. . Retrieved 5th February 2009 from http://www.eurasianet.org/departments/insight/articles/eav061907a.shtml
Jeralyn, G. (2003). Georgia to reconsider treating juvenile as adults. Retrieved 5th February 2009 from http://www.talkleft.com/story/2003/02/03/749/53691
Rimple, P. (2006). Harsh sentence for juvenile offenders raises question about Georgia justice system. Retrieved 5th February 2009 from http://www.eurasianet.org/departments/insight/articles/eav092206.shtml