Academic journal article Ife Psychologia

Juvenile Delinquency and Justice in Lagos State, Nigeria: A Sociological Appraisal

Academic journal article Ife Psychologia

Juvenile Delinquency and Justice in Lagos State, Nigeria: A Sociological Appraisal

Article excerpt

Juvenile Delinquency refers to the antisocial and criminal behaviour involving individuals below the age of 18. Juvenile Delinquency has consistently been a problem in the world, Nigeria inclusive. In Nigeria, juvenile offenders are treated differently from adults, although this has not always been the case. This paper discussed the emergence of the Child's Right act in Nigeria in 2003 which was designed to ameliorate the plight of children and young persons who found themselves on the justice corridor. This paper analysed the major content of the CRA as it relates to Juvenile delinquency, from arrest to committal procedures. This paper revealed that the important first step of legislative reform has been successfully achieved and some machinery has also been put in place at the Federal level and in a few States of Federation (Lagos State in particular), to adequately implement and restore the dignity of young offenders to become good ambassadors of the society. The paper therefore concluded that there is likely to be gaps between the laws on the books and the law in practice in juvenile justice system. There is need for government to set up Monitoring and evaluation apparatus to ensure compliance to the law.

Keywords: Juvenile, Child Rights Act, dignity, offender, justice.

For centuries, children have been regarded as little better than the chattels of their parents. Adults of every generation often have complained about the unruly conduct of youths. Youths have long been known for the tendency to be rowdy, to drink excessively to fight with one another and to be sexually active. The concept of "juvenile delinquency" as a phenomenon distinct from adult criminality is a relatively recent historical invention (Alemika 1990).

Earlier societies did not make the distinctions among childhood, adolescence, and adulthood that we make today. Today, the law no longer regards a child purely as a chattel; a number of legal developments have been responsible for this change, notably the juristic shift from parental responsibility, the introduction of the paramantoiy principle and the creation of local authority powers for the protection of children (Reid 1999).

Modern families are expected to be child centered and protective of children. This was not the case in earlier times. Infanticide, the deliberate killing of unwanted infants, particularly twins and females, were not uncommon and was viewed by some as casually as some may view abortion today. A large number of children also are considered "battered" in light of the harsh physical punishment they received. Thus children often lived under difficult and unhealthy conditions and suffered much from disease.

As Western Civilization emerged from the middle Ages, some of these practices began to fade. Gradually, a more nurturing attitude toward children emerged. Good behaviour in children was increasingly viewed as a product of parental affection rather than of fear and punishment. The family was perceived more as an emotional unit and as a refuge from the outside world. Obedient children were still the ideal, but they were obedient "not because they were forced to behave" but because they wanted to behave (Binder, Eeis, and Bruce 1988). The social construction of the "ideal child" and the changes in family life set the stage for the concept of "delinquency".

The Concept of Juvenile Delinquency

Delinquency is an antisocial misdeed in violation of the law by a minor. The concept "Juvenile Delinquency" can be broadly defined to mean any act that violates the criminal law, committed by a person defined by the law as a juvenile, which if had been committed by an adult would be treated as crime or criminal act. However, there are other acts which adult criminals act free of but certified or defined as delinquency, when manifested by children and juveniles. These are referred to as status offences and they include behaviours like running away from home, drinking alcohol in public, truancy in school, etc. …

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