Some critics believe delinquents fail to abide by society’s rules and should be put away. They tend to ignore the sources. The roots of delinquency are complex. Modification strategies, extension of undesirable responses, and counter-conditioning have all proven effective: positive reinforcement of desired responses. Attacking causes will address the problem more cost effectively than individual treatment.
Conversely, hard-core youth sent to juvenile institutions become leaders in inmate subcultures. But in adult institutions they are prey for older inmates.
Most have fallible, imperfect parents that do the best they can under the circumstances. During the 1800s young roamed the west looking for trouble. At that time 3,000 prisoners in London under age 20, some young as 6. In 1785, 18 of every 20 executed in London were under age 21. So criminality of youth is not unique to a particular time or place.
Under ancient Saxon law, one below age 12 could not be found guilty of any felony on basis of natural capacity. Today youth charged with homicide are taken directly to criminal court. Yet juvenile institutions were established to remove them from harsh prisons.
During this time agricultural societies were transitioning to modern urban, industrial which brings people into closer contact Before 1776 most youth punishment was denunciations in church or town meetings; followed by public pleas of forgiveness.
Children not controlled by parents were transferred to work as servants. People expect the system to reduce crime. Yet no policy has achieved; they all fail eventually because they can’t eliminate a problem they did not create. Larger society conditions that created the problem has to be changed. Undesirable behavior is the result of choice. The road ahead is paved with good intentions but no one wants to believe that their choices have produced hellish results.