Juvenile delinquency, also known as "juvenile offending", is the act of participating in unlawful behavior as a minor or individual younger than the statutory age of majority. For example, in the United States of America a juvenile delinquent is a person who is typically below 18 (17 in the states of Georgia, Michigan, Missouri, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Texas, and Wisconsin) years of age and commits an act that otherwise would have been charged as a crime if they were an adult. Juvenile crimes can range from status offenses (such as underage smoking/drinking), to property crimes and violent crimes.
The examples and perspective in this article deal primarily with the United States and do not represent a worldwide view of the subject. (June 2020)
|Criminology and penology|
Some scholars have found an increase in arrests for youth and have concluded that this may reflect more aggressive criminal justice and zero-tolerance policies rather than changes in youth behavior. Youth violence rates in the United States have dropped to approximately 12% of peak rates in 1993 according to official US government statistics, suggesting that most juvenile offending is non-violent. Many delinquent acts can be attributed to the environmental factors such as family behavior or peer influence. One contributing factor that has gained attention in recent years is the school to prison pipeline. The focus on punitive punishment has been seen to correlate with juvenile delinquency rates. Some have suggested shifting from zero tolerance policies to restorative justice approaches.
Juvenile detention centers, courts and electronic monitoring are common structures of the juvenile legal system. Juvenile courts are in place to address offenses for minors as civil rather than criminal cases in most instances. The frequency of use and structure of these courts in the United States varies by state. Depending on the type and severity of the offense committed, it is possible for people under 18 to be charged and treated as adults.