In recent years we can easily identify the crimes committed by minors from high-profile criminal cases. In Georgia, this topic is up-to-date and hurtful. That is why it is interesting to observe what can lead to juvenile delinquency, how it can be prevented, what is necessary for the rehabilitation of juveniles, and what programs are being implemented in this regard.The factors causing the crime are complex. It comprises psychological and social circumstances that interact with each other, causing particular behavior.According to a survey conducted in Kutaisi, most respondents consider family relationships to cause a crime committed by a minor. In their view, most juvenile delinquents lack parental care. The respondents say that children with parents abroad sometimes find themselves in the wrong environment and “go astray.” Children who live on the streets, lacking a home, consider being at risk.Childhood psychological trauma, violence, imitation of criminal authorities, etc, are also cited as reasons for juvenile delinquency.
Below we will try to review the factors named by the respondents from Kutaisi and explain the circumstances that can cause the crime in minors.There is one major psychological theory – Social Learning Theory, which seeks to explain the causes of a particular behavior. Followers of this theory see crime as a deliberate response to a particular life event. The most famous representative of this theory A. Bandura believed that people are not born with innate actions, and that violence and aggression can be learned by modeling the behavior of othersMost times, the causes of the crime indeed can be linked to this theory. Especially in cases of minors.
- Issues associated with family
A family, especially parents, plays a big role in the development of the child/adolescent. Issues associated with family can be one of the risk factors. These issues can be economic, social, etc.In Georgia, with the increasing number of immigrants rises the number of minors left without a parent. For grandparents or other caregivers, sometimes it is challenging to pay attention and supervise these children so they do not end up in an unfavorable environment. Improper surroundings may push a child/adolescent to commit a crime.The causes of committing a crime can be domestic violence, parental indifference and their bad habits, etc.
Often, potential perpetrators are the victims of violence. Individuals may confront violence in a variety of social settings: in family, school, etc. Children who have experienced violence are most likely to have infringed relationships with adults, cannot communicate with their peers, and become “bullies” to prove themselves, sometimes they link their fate to a criminal environment.
- Imitation – Does one crime provoke others ?!
A human being goes through several stages of social development, among which childhood and adolescence are important. Values, patterns of behavior, and motives are forming in childhood age. At this stage, family and parents play an important role in a person’s life. Further, in adolescence, people try to define their own identity, try to establish themselves, and often the influence of parents is replaced by the influence of peers and friends. Hence, the reason for juvenile delinquency can become imitation.They can follow the example of:
- family members who engage in criminal behavior;
- peers prone to committing criminal acts;
the so-called “authorities” who push children to commit crimes.Unfortunately, in Georgia remains an idea of the so-called “good boy” and “thief in law”, and the “authorities” associated with them. This mentality is still propagandized within juveniles, where crime is considered as a norm. Some teenagers have chosen a similar path that increasing the risk of committing a crime by them.
Poor socio-economic status, indifferent attitude of parents, feelings of inferiority, lack of attention, and many other reasons can lead to various types of psychological issues in children and adolescents. For example, depression, fears, and complexes, excessive aggression, etc. This can provoke the minor to commit a crime.
In Georgia, the problem regarding homeless children remains a serious concern. Children living on the streets, due to poor economic and social conditions, can be considered as one of the risk groups, as they are homeless children, who see “hooliganism” as the only way of their existence.
According to Georgian legislation, legal prosecution does not apply to children under the age of 14, which can lead to “impunity syndrome” in minors. This means that a minor knowing there won’t be a punishment for a crime may re-offend. Adults on the streets use this situation to their advantage, and there are cases when relatively grown-up and “experienced” children force the younger ones to commit crimes knowing that they can “avoid the danger.”
Juvenile Delinquency Prevention
Against such factors as violence, psychological issues, “street life,” etc that push a minor to commit a crime, there needs to be an opportunity for the minor to see the right path.International experience divides the crime prevention level into three levels:
At every level, preventive measures are of particular importance in the fight against the crime. LEPL Center for Crime Prevention was established in 2012 and promotes the prevention of juvenile delinquency, rehabilitation and re-socialization of former juvenile prisoners, and institutional development of mediation..
The center works both on early and general crime prevention, as well as with at-risk groups.
- In terms of primary crime prevention measures, it needs to mention the programs implementing throughout Georgia for minors aged 14 to 18, including„Leadership House” – Project is implemented in 13 cities of Georgia and gives to youth the opportunity to develop physically and mentally by participating in training, seminars, sports and other activities.
„Two generations” – Which involves schoolchildren in the voluntary activities in elderly nursing homes. The youth will help the elderly which promotes developing a sense of solidarity and responsibility in minors.For secondary prevention, the center promotes the management and development of the programs/projects for minors at risk-groups. In this regard, in Tbilisi is implemented the program “Youth Club” which target groups are minors who are characterized by difficult, antisocial behavior. This program helps beneficiaries to use their free time productively. The tertiary prevention programs include programs aiming at preventing children, who have pleaded guilty or are convicted of an offense, from re-offending. These are the diversion and mediation programs applying to individuals under the age of 21.
If there is a probable cause that a person under the age of 21 has committed a minor or a serious crime, the prosecutor is authorized not to initiate/stop the criminal prosecution and apply the diversion mechanism. Deviation programs present one chance to the person under the age of 21, in exchange for fulfilling certain conditions, to continue living without a conviction and a sentence, to start a law-abiding life, and to take a step forward to a successful future.
Re-socialization-rehabilitation of former convicts
In Georgia, the Rehabilitation and Re-Socialization Program for Former Prisoners was launched at the end of 2012 to promote the rehabilitation of persons released from penitentiary facilities, returning them to society as full members, and to prevent re-offending. 1 to 3 months before the release, the Social Workers of Crime Prevention Center meet with the detainees at the penitentiary facilities and provide them with information about the program and services.For the effective management of the rehabilitation and re-socialization process, it is crucial to involve various governmental and non-governmental organizations.
We can give a successful example of the EU and Austrian Development Agency funded project “Step by Step to a Better Future” implementing by HILFSWERK International, IDP Women’s Association (Shida Kartli and Samegrelo), and the Entrepreneurial Women’s Fund (Imereti). This project aims to facilitate the re-socialization of probationers, former offenders, and their family members through an integrated approach that includes vocational training, psycho-social and legal counseling, and assistance in job search, mentors support and delivering other benefits (free meals during training, reimbursement of travel expenses).
Successful participants of the project had the opportunity to undergo paid internships at local companies or apply for material support for setting up their own or expanding an existing business or establishing a source of income.
Juvenile detainees are a particularly vulnerable group in the penitentiary system. In the Juvenile Rehabilitation Facilities programs aiming at their rehabilitation and re-socialization are defined by the individual approach mechanism.
They have the opportunity to receive general education following the standard of the educational system and the educational process under the national plan. Various rehabilitation programs are being implemented:
Group interventions, psycho-social training, intellectual-cognitive and cultural events.
Despite the current and completed preventive measures, issues concerning juvenile delinquency are still relevant in Georgia. For their elimination complex, comprehensive approaches and engagement of both the state and the society are needed at every stage of the crime. In my opinion, the efficiency of these measures requires that prevention programs reach all members of the risk groups and be fully accessible.