Crime among the young people has been one of the major issues that the criminal justice has had to deal with. For very many years, crime among this group and how to deal with it has been one of the major problems facing the civilised society (Wilcox & Hoyle, 2004). Of the same importance is the fact that this should be achieved justly and effectively within a structure of human rights principles (Marshall, 1996). This is due to the fact that it is in the criminal justice system that these principles are not always observed and abuses or infringement of human rights can take place especially when dealing with young offenders.
In the efforts to ensure that the rights are protected and that crime is dealt with, criminal justice systems across the world have undergone tremendous changes. With the increase in the rate of juvenile offenders, governments have come up with policies to curb this issue and make the society a safer place for everyone (McConville & Wilson, 2002). These policies in the last fourteen years are the focus of this paper. Background information The changes in handling crime among juvenile offenders from the perspective of its cause in the recent past began with the fight against drug abuse.
One of the policies that have been introduced in the criminal justice system is the criminalisation of drug abuse. This policy has resulted in increased utilisation of harsh disciplinary measures imposed on those accused of drug-related crimes and remarkable rises in incarceration rates (Marshall, 1996). However, these policies have had little effect on elimination or reduction of illegal drug trading and use. They might also have led to negative consequences for community and social health.
As a result, the criminal justice system has showed to be an unsuccessful arena in the management and control of many aspects of the drug business and the issue of drug abuse. Basically as a result of the drug policy, the rate of incarcerations globally is at all times higher than ever before (Utting, Vennard & Scott, 2002). Additionally, the amount of funds that governments are spending in relation to this issue has increased tremendously. Drug policy and the imprisonment of drug offenders is the basic cause of imprisonment in different parts of the world particularly in the United States.
Studies have proven that drug treatment and rehabilitation programs are more effective as compared to the imprisonment of drug users (McConville & Wilson, 2002). Such policies like the drug policy was aimed at reducing crime especially among the young people based on the conviction that drugs are the primary cause of crime among this group. Criminalisation of drug abuse and possession of drugs together with compulsory sentencing and long prison terms for low-level drug offences has been the basic cause of mass imprisonment (Smith, 2003). The worldwide prison population has increased in the past two decades.
The increase in the number of youths currently imprisoned has serious effects on the government and the society. This is due to the fact that the resources that would be channelled to development have been directed in the last two decades in the imprisonment of drug criminals (Wilcox and Hoyle, 2004). Policies pursued by governments in the last 14 years There were proposals that were presented by Michael Howard on how to deal with crime and anti-social behaviour among the young people. Among the 27 measures proposed by Michael Howard, eighteen were incorporated into the Criminal Justice Bill for passing by the parliament.
One of the proposals was the reinstatement of the approved schools, the elimination of the right to silence, electronic tagging, restrictions of the right to bail and that of the right to trial by jury (Utting, Vennard & Scott, 2002). This policy is in line with Margaret Thatcher's statement that prisons were only "an expensive way of making bad people worse. " This policy to deal with youth offenders has been necessitated by the fact that every aspect of the criminal justice system is basically in a state of confusion.
Crime figures especially among the young offenders were higher than ever before and the court cases that were published revealed law enforcement officers as involved in brutal and corrupt deals (McConville & Wilson, 2002). In 1998, the Crime and Disorder Act was passed, being the initial criminal justice law passed by the New Labour government after it was elected in 1997 (Wilcox & Hoyle, 2004). This policy in many aspects marked the history of the nation's reaction to concerns of children and crime. This legislation can be illustrated as landmark for two major reasons.
The first one is due to the fact that it offers an overarching mission for the justice system as far as youth and crime is concerned: Section 37 of the Act states that the main aim of the justice system must be 'to prevent offending by children and young persons' (Newburn, 2002: 560). Therefore, the Crime and Disorder Act changed the arrangement of service provision concerning children and crime. There were other legislations that were passed after this act, such as the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999 (Newburn, 2002).
The second reason is in the fact that it is through this act that the justice system is given the power to engage with the matter of anti-social acts and thus to intervene with young offenders, and their families. A number of sanctions are put in place to ensure that these interventions are enacted, and after they have been processed and incorporated in the appropriate legislation, it is in this legislation that they emanate. Furthermore, the two acts mark a definite move from the essentials expressed in previous policies to keep away young offenders (especially the ones without a previous criminal record) away from criminal acts.
This is in the sense that the behaviour is changed before it becomes established in the young people (Newburn, 2002). One of the impacts of the interventions that were introduced by the act of 1998 (and pursued through in a series of policy edicts, regulation and further law) is that most of the present service reaction in England and Wales to the issue of crime and anti-social behaviour prevention among the young people has developed only in the last decade, especially the past four to five years.
This has both pro and con. The pro is that most of the period following the year of the enactment, innovations are subject to formal assessment. This is in line with the commitment by the government to proof-based policy and practice. This has provided ready bases for the review of the legislation. The con on the other hand is that, due to the fact that all the development has been experienced in the recent past, the amount of useful research literature on the present policy is not much (Newburn, 2002).
Nevertheless, one thing is clear and this is the character of the knowledge base on which the interventions of the act as well as the new provisions to which it produced are founded. One of the structures that were established for the implementation of the act was the Youth Justice Board (Tilley, 2001). One of the initial actions of this board was commissioning of a number of studies on the issues that are related to its agenda of 'preventing youth offender' so as to inform the establishment of effective practice (Tarling, Davison & Clarke, 2004).
The researches were carried out by independent people and are systematic as well as wide-ranging in their approach. This means that they offer an important basis on which to base the review of the effectiveness of the policy (McConville & Wilson, 2002). Through identification of the risk-factors, the board developed the directly protective function. This is where they analyse circumstances or environments that pose a risk to the youths in developing criminal and anti-social behaviours.
They serve in protecting the youth against the early development of involvement in criminal acts (Smith, 2003). The protective factors have been identified to impact in three main ways. The first one is by preventing the occurrence of the factors that are considered risky. The second one is through interaction with the risk factors in reducing their serious effects. The last one is by disrupting the developmental and mediational sequence by which the risk factors are likely to influence or underpin developing behaviour (Wilcox & Hoyle, 2004).