There has been a steady increase in the number violent crimes committed by todays adolescence. Headlines in newspaper read Two teen kill 13 and wound several others Fourteen year old boy kills one and wounds another. Incidences like these are shocking society today. Why is this violence happening Todays children are growing up in a more violence society. Violence is shown on television, through video games and through different advertising campaigns. Are young kids killing their peers to solve their problems, for respect, or for curiosity Findings from interview with clinical psychologists, correctional workers, educators and, military personal solve what the problems facing todays youth are.
Presently crime amongst adolescents is increases at an alarming rate. Violent crimes committed by youths have double in the past twenty years. This number is expected to double again in the next ten years. 50% of youth in a Saskatchewan detention are incarcerated for violent crimes. Of all violent crimes committed last year in the Canada, seventeen percent of those were committed adolescents (equal to that of the United States). The rate of violent crimes is decreasing in urban centers but is steadily increasing in rural areas.
Dr. Todd Willoughby, a clinical psychologist from the Saskatchewan Mental Health Unit in Saskatoon is a member of the High Risk and Violent Offenders Initiative here in Saskatoon. Dr. Willoughby works with a series of other psychologists, social workers and nurses in the psycho educational assessments for the courts. The assessments are done to determine the risk factors that would lead a youth to re-offend and the type of custody that would be suitable for each youth. The risk factors that are labeled criminogenic are the ones that seem to be apparent in violent youths.
Risk factors such as drugs, alcohol, gang association and occupation of spare time, are all major risk factors of a youth. Occupation of spare time is triggered by, bored, frustration, angry, negative emotions and a sexual outlet being closed. According to Dr. Willoughby, these criminogenic risk factors are pre-barriers to crime.
Internal barriers occurring within a youth offender is their own consciousness. The external factors are important for dealing with youths in terms of, their resistance to rehabilitation, guilt, and access to victims. Low self-esteem is another factor apparent mostly in sexual offenders. Dr. Willoughby see a history of antisocial behavior as the most obvious predictor of violence. The help that Dr.
Willoughby and his associates provide for violent youths comes in the form of anger management, awareness of risk factors, character building and, helping them learn to manage their spare time. Dr. Willoughby suggests that there is not one way to help violent youths, just give them tools to deal with problems. Dane n Connell is one of the Educational Coordinators at the Paul Dojack Youth Center. It is the opinion of Mr. Connell that youths are better served when they are educated rather than being counseled.
Mr. Connell educates adolescents between the ages of twelve and eighteen. He feels that if a rapport could be built between the student and educator, the childrens self-esteem could be raised enough that the children were willing to be educated. This education could help them realize that there are better things in life other than crime.
This too, helps the youths find new jobs when they are done serving their sentence at the PDC. Todays violent offenders are not getting the treatment that they deserve much to the belief of Canadian citizens. Reg Card the Director of the Paul Dojack Youth Center, believes not enough help is being given to adolescents that are trying to get rehabilitated. Deemed as too expensive, a psychologist that should be readily available in these correctional centers to the residents is not available. Justifying the cost of three hundred dollar per hour is something that is not being done by political leaders.
It is denial by political leaders that are not getting the youth that want to be help the materials that they need. The director of treatment for these violent youths is not around to see the results of the youth in these centers. Aside from the cost, the decision to get a psychologist to help these youths is one that is made by a person who has no contact with the youth in need. Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, has been able to make several observations on the impact of todays television on youths.
According to Lt. Col. Grossman's observations, youth are watching twenty-seven hours of television per week. In addition to this, he and Dr. Willoughby agree that children today are playing more violent video games than ever before. As an expert on military strategies, the Lt.
Col. has observed that television uses the same techniques used in the army, desensitizing people toward violence. Though classical conditioning youths are killing associated with candy bars, soft drinks and entertainment. Youths are also seeing a brutal hero shoot and kill without any sort of discipline enforced on them. Unable to tell the difference in what is right and wrong, children are victims of Acquired Violence Immune Syndrome. The operant conditioning youths are being taught is stimuli-response reflexes.
Acting instinctively towards a violent video game sends youths the messages that reacting in a violent manner is acceptable. The Surgeon General, National Institute of Mental Health and the American Psychologist Associations Task Force agrees with the effects of violence on television. Observations that they have made while studying adolescents watching television are; an increase in viewers fear of being victimized, a desensitization towards violence resulting in casual attitudes towards violence. They often demonstrate how desirable commodities can be obtained through violence.
Males have an increase in aggression towards females. All of these effects are both long term and short term. Proof of the risk factors mentioned by researchers is apparent in the actions of youth. Some incidences that have taken place in current years are as follows: Two youths in Littleton Colorado, belonged to a gang called the trench coat mafia. Being a member of this gang, they were bearing swastikas, believed in white supremacy. Choosing the date of Hitlers birthday to commit their violent acts, were they killed 13 people.
In Taber Alberta, a fourteen year old shot two boys, killing one of them. The reason for shooting them was that the boy was ostracized frequently. This happened to a point were he found life to be unbearable. Being bullied and gang relationships are two major risk factors. Combined with others can make children potentially dangerous and in some cases bring them to a point where violence is the only option they have. Accountability and remorse for a youths actions is a huge factor in determining whether or not a adolescent will re-offend.
Along with this, the provincial courts sentencing is a problem. Youth are not being sentenced long enough for any impact to be made by counseling. It does not give the youth enough time to prepare themselves for changing their lives. While being held at a detention center, youths are revered by their peers for the violent crimes that they have committed. Youths that are sentenced to alternative measures to incarceration, ie: Native Healing Lodges, feel a lack of remorse for their actions. No matter what the punishment is, unless a youth re-offends there is no follow up to the punishment received.
Centers are unsure if their rehabilitation has been successful or not. Example of this happened in North Battleford Saskatchewan, when two teenage girls murdered their foster home mother. One of the teens, which suffered from FAS, had previously murdered a three-year-old baby. The investigating and researching of many aspects of violence in youths, has lead to recommendations.
It should be the goal of society help adolescents who are committing crimes and who have a potential to commit crimes. Adolescents spend most of their day in schools; school officials should be educated on the serious implications of violence. Bullies in schools should be accountable for their actions. A zero tolerance is needed and the bullies should be punished accordingly. Schools should adopt policies for a safe learning environment.
Parents need to be educated on effective parenting and non-violent coping skills. Families should be encouraged to spend their free time together, away from the television. Television programming, should be censored more strictly. Interactive video games for youth should be monitored and censored. Stiffer punishment for repeat offenders is needed. Sentencing should fit the crime and not the age of the adolescent.
Proper reforming practices need to be enforced, after incarceration needs to be monitored. Correctional centers have no idea if their programs are working for the youths in need. The education of these recommendations will hopefully be helpful for a majority of the youth offenders. The reforming of many youths will take the entire country.
This is not just the problem of violent youths and their families. Violence affects an entire society.