‘Delinquency’ is derived from the Latin root ‘delinquentia’ meaning ‘fault or offence.’ Juvenile delinquency is also known as juvenile offending or youth crime and means the failure to do what the law or duty requires or a conduct which is unacceptable by law. It is usually divided into three categories: crimes dealt with by the Juvenile Courts, crimes dealt with by the Criminal Justice System, and status offenses like: underage smoking, drinking, or the willful but unauthorized abstinence from compulsory schooling. Delinquency is suggestive of the failure of parents and society to raise the child rather than the failure of the child. Left unattended, there is nothing more devastating for a society than a juvenile delinquent developing into a dangerous criminal with the coming of age.
1. Gerald Gault
Sheriff of Gila County, Arizona took 15-year-old Gerald Gault into custody on the charges of making obscene phone calls to the neighbor. It was done without information to his parents. Judge McGhee noted ‘That said minor is a delinquent child, and that said minor is of the age of 15 years’ and ordered his confinement in the State Industrial School until his coming of age at 21 years. Gault maintained that the call was made by his friend Ronald Lewis. In re Gault 387.U.S.1 in a landmark decision, the U.S. Supreme Court held that juveniles accused of delinquency crimes must be afforded many of the same due process rights as adults. The decision was written by the famous children’s rights proponent Justice Abbe Fortas.
2. Mike Tyson
Michael Gerard Tyson, better known as Mike Tyson, was born to Jimmy Kirkpatrick and Lorna Smith Tyson in Brooklyn, New York, U.S. on June 30, 1966. He is a former undisputed heavyweight champion of the world and holds the record of being the youngest boxer to win all the world boxing heavyweight titles at the age of 20 years, 4 months, and 22 days old. He had been arrested 38 times by the age of 13 years. His boxing potential was explored by a detention center counselor named Bobby Stewart. Recalling his mother Tyson said ‘I never saw my mother happy with me and proud of me for doing something. She only knew me as being a wild kid running the streets, coming home with new clothes that she knew I didn’t pay for.’
3. Jasmine Richardson
Jasmine Richardson was a 12-year-old juvenile delinquent who planned and committed the cold-blooded murder of both her parents and her younger brother with the help of her boyfriend and accomplice, 23-year-old Jeremy Steinke. On April 23, 2006 at 1:00 p.m., the bodies of her father Marc Richardson, her mother Debra, and her 8-year-old brother Jacob were found in their home. She was absent from the site, and the neighbors and police initially believed that she had been abducted. The following day she was arrested along with her boyfriend Steinke from Leader, Saskatchewan, a location about 130 kilometers away from the site of the murders. Both were charged with the three murders. On November 8, 2007, Judge Brooker sentenced her to the maximum 10 years’ sentence permissible under the Canadian Youth Criminal Justice Act. Brooker said, ‘The circumstances surrounding these murders are horrific’¦It is difficult to imagine a more horrific crime.’
4. Carl Friedrich Gauss
Carl Friedrich Gauss was born in Braunschweig6, Roman Empire on April 30, 1777 and died in Goettingen, Kingdom of Hanover, on February 23, 1855. He was known as the Prince of Mathematics, and he named mathematics as the princess of the sciences. At the age of ten years he had annoyed his mathematics teacher so much that the teacher assigned him as a punishment to add up all the whole numbers from 1-100. He thought and arrived at that adding 1 to 100 sums up to 101, and it remains constant if the left side number is increased with an equal decrease in the right side number like 2+99=101, 3+98=101 and similarly 4+97=101. There are 50 pairs from 1-100 and they all add up to 101. Therefore, 101 X 50 = 5,050. Gauss came up with the correct answer in less than 30 seconds.
5. Louis Braille
Louis Braille was born to Simon Rene and Monique in Coupyray, France on January 4, 1809 and died in Paris, France on January 6, 1852 at the age of 43 years. On account of an accident in his early childhood, he went blind in both eyes by the age of five years old. He was, therefore, sent to the National Institute for Blind Youth in Paris. It was the first blind institute in the world and used the embossed Latin letters for teaching. At the age of 15, Braille developed a much easier and better system of reading the dots representing the English alphabet. He tried to teach the system to the teachers, all of whom were sighted, but they were only too biased and prohibited all the students from learning the new system. Braille was too delinquent for his teachers and spread the system throughout the institute.
6. Claudette Colvin
The Civil Rights Movement began when a 15-year-old black girl, Claudette Colvin, refused to comply with the instructions to go to the back of the bus. She was arrested for her misconduct, and some locals, including Rosa Parks, urged the community to boycott buses. Rosa Parks followed the example of Colvin. Since, unlike Colvin, she was an adult, she was considered an activist and became more famous while Colvin was just considered as a juvenile delinquent and was ignored.
7. Barbara Johns
Barbara Johns attended a black public high school in Farmville, Virginia. On April 23, 1951, with the help of an accomplice, she made the principal believe that a few students were truants and caused trouble among other students. She forged the signature of the principal and summoned an assembly of teachers and all the students. When all of them were there, she called off the teachers and urged the students to go on strike till their demands for improving the conditions at the school were met. Lawyers were sent to negotiate with the out-of-control, young, black offenders, and an agreement was reached to file a lawsuit on their behalf. In consideration of the lawsuit, known as Brown vs. Board of Education, the Supreme Court ruled that racial segregation was unconstitutional, and it laid the successful foundation of the Civil Rights Movement.
8. Curtis James Jackson, III
Curtis James Jackson, III, better known by his stage name 50Cents, was born in South Jamaica, Queens, New York City, U.S. on July 6, 1975. He started dealing in drugs at the age of 12 while his grandparents were under the impression that he was taking extra classes at school. He was caught by a metal detector while carrying a gun in his school. He was then sent to a correctional school where he was transformed and ultimately emerged by 2007 as the second wealthiest American rapper next only to Jay-Z. His album Get Rich or Die Trying was an RIAA eight times certified platinum.
9. Robert Mitchum
Robert Mitchum was born to Harry Anniette and James Thomas Mitchum in Bridgeport, Connecticut, U.S. on August 6, 1917. He died of lung cancer in Santa Barbara, California, U.S. on July 1, 1997. He was a prankster throughout his childhood and was known for fist fighting, riotous behavior, and was expelled from school for fighting with the principal. He was arrested for vagrancy in Savannah, Georgia at the age of 14. He was transformed during his adulthood and emerged as a famous film actor. He was #23 on the American Film Institute’s List of the Greatest Male American Screen Legends of All Time.
10. Allen Iverson
Allen Ezail Iverson, better known as Allen Iverson, was born in Hampton, Virginia, U.S. on June 7, 1975. On February 14, 1993, he was arrested for allegedly striking a woman in the head with a chair. He was convicted as an adult while he was 17 years old. He maintained his innocence saying, ‘That’s crazy! And what kind of a man would I be to hit a girl in the head with a damn chair? I rather have ’em say I hit a man with a chair, not no damn woman.’ He became a famous, American basketball player. In the 2000-01 season, he was the NBA’s Most Valuable Player. In 2004 he won a bronze medal at the 2004 Summer Olympics. In 2008, ESPN rated him the fifth greatest NBA shooting guard of all time.
A review of the delinquency cases reveals that juvenile delinquency is constantly on the rise prompting the lowering of the early arrest age. The handling of juvenile delinquency cases by adult criminal courts has lowered the juvenile age to as low as 16 years. Depending upon the nature of the cases, treating ten-year-old children like adults has also increased. Things have worsened after 9/11 on account of security concerns and the rising tendency in juvenile spree killings.