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Juvenile Delinquency: The Columbine Shootings Research Paper

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Updated: Sep 17th, 2021

Introduction

This paper seeks to discuss and analyze the casual theory of juvenile delinquency by describing an instance of juvenile delinquency as highlighted in the mass media, by describing the casual theory of juvenile delinquency with the definition of the basic concepts, by applying the theory to the instance of juvenile delinquency, by describing how the theory explains the delinquents acts, and by discussing the appropriate institutional response.

Analysis and Discussion

Description of an instance of juvenile delinquency highlighted in the mass media

An instance of delinquency as highlighted in mass media is the case of Columbine Shootings where the person involved is minor. On one fateful day in Columbine High School, in 1999, Erica Harris and Dylan Klebold, both made shooting at their schools. They entered their school in cars and parked at slots not assigned to them where each could view a main exit of the school. Prior to that, they had set a small fire bomb in a field half a mile away from the school, which was as a diversion for emergency personnel. They placed other bombs in the school premises including the cafeteria and the library as the two have intended to open fire on students fleeing the school through the main entrances once the cafeteria bombs detonated.

When the cafeteria bombs failed, the two armed themselves with their weapons, and walked toward the cafeteria, and proceeded to the highest point on campus so they could view the cafeteria’s side entrance and the school’s main entrance to their left. From there, they pulled out their shotguns and began shooting at students (Scott and Castaldo, whom they know and who were sitting on a grassy knoll while eating lunch. Scott died instantly while Castaldo was critically wounded, being hit 4 and 8 times respective.1

The two have killed other people in the school at a young age hence making them juvenile delinquents in a real sense. It must be pointed however that before the killing, in 1998, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were count with tools that had been stolen, from a van found near Littleton, Colorado. After the arrest and trial, where both pleaded guilty to the theft, the judge gave them a sentence under juvenile diversion. Having been required to attend various classes together, including a class on anger management, it is believed that this could have caused the two to plan a killing spree as described above.2

Description of the casual theory of juvenile delinquency defines the basic concepts 1-2 pages. Apply the theory to the instance of juvenile delinquency

The casual theory of juvenile delinquency connotes a flippant attitude on the part of killers who were minors at the time they had violent behavior. Such attitude may just be caused by a circumstance that has an association in the past upon which the minor is made to react that could amount to violent acts that are disruptive of society’s norms including things that may be considered crimes. This researcher believes that casual theory has close relation with the differential association theory, which is credited to twentieth-century criminologist Edwin H. Sutherland. One of the propositions under said theory posits that a person is likely to engage in crime when he or she has learned more attitudes that are favorable to violation of the law, than attitudes that are unfavorable to it. Thus it could be argued that learning under said normally occurs in the course of social interaction, and the criminal behavior could be learned in the same manner as any other social behavior. The contacts made early in life, particularly those that are intimate, frequent, and lasting tend to produce impact short-term ones but casual ones have great chances of reminding past experiences. Since one has more exposure through close social interaction, to a great number of attitudes favorable to crime than conformist attitudes and behaviors, that person’s criminal tendencies have a great chance of development while still a child.3

This could be used to explain the Columbine shootings where two minors before the horrible killings, were exposed to video games that may have really affected their way of thinking that killing people is more favorable to them. It was a US psychiatrist by the name of Jerald Block, who argued that the killers’ actions are not well explained by diagnoses of the other analyst including the Secret Service. Block states that Klebold and Harris were engrossed in games that would have affected their view of the world. A game like Doom has made killer’s lives most rewarding while playing on the computer which virtual appeared to them as realities. This means that their playing games have gotten them into trouble when Klebold and Harris started to get their computer access restricted. Their anger to society was somewhat being projected into the games and which they had the chance to unleash into the real world when they were restricted access. Moreover, Block explained that the computer restrictions caused great amounts of idle time that would have otherwise been used by the two in their online activities, and which idle time was used by them to express their anger and thus further aggravating their antisocial tendencies. Block also explained that that the plan to attack the school was found in Klebold’s writings as per the investigation of Klebold’s diary.4

Description of how the theory explains the delinquent’s acts

Since the related theory states that a person is likely to engage in crime when one e has learned more attitudes that are favorable to violation of the law, than attitudes that are unfavorable to it, it could be argued that Harris and Klebold may have used more of their time feeding their subconscious minds that in defeating their enemies by the number of killings, this satisfies their self-esteem since they are given equivalent scores in the games that could have them to feel great about themselves.

By exposing themselves to computer games where there are war violent characters with whom they can associate and identify, they entered into a world where killing has given them a place or has put them in a world where a reward is more easily forthcoming which is rather casual. Gaining reward therefore while killing their enemies has become a big reality in their minds. No wonder they have a strategy to implement their objective as may be seen in the computers.

This explanation finds a very logical relationship too with how Block explained their immersion in games like Doom by Klebold and Harris that has become more gratifying for the two than the pleasure of acquiring knowledge in the books or in a conventional way.

As to whether there is a social interaction that has occurred as a basis of the criminal behavior learned as other social behavior, this researcher believes there is since the computer games involve a transaction with the characters that even extend to identifying oneself to one of them. As to the possibility whether the two has made contacts early in life that are intimate, frequent, and lasting as to cause more impact, this researcher believes that the almost daily playing of the computer has replaced their normal way of thinking or that they just found some refuge in playing the games that left a mark in their personalities.

Description of the appropriate institutional response

The institutional response for juvenile delinquents under the casual theory would not be to punish them unless the minor could not be controlled physically in which case imprisonment would be the most appropriate thing to do at least while being corrected or rehabilitated.

As stated earlier, before the killing spree the two were already caught on January 30, 1998, with stolen tools that had been stolen from a parked van,2 where they sentenced by the judge sentenced them to juvenile diversion, after trial. What can be considered as an actual institutional response was the requirement for the two to attend various classes together, including a class on anger management? Harris was also reported to have attended therapy sessions with a psychologist and continued to do so for about a year.

As part of the diversion sentence, both adolescents were required to attend classes and to meet with parole officers. Having expected to learn from their mistakes the authorities eventually released from diversion even weeks earlier than expected due to their good behavior.1 What was surprising was when Harris wrote a rather fawning letter to the owner of a stolen tool, because aside from apologies, there was also empathy by him.5 Doing such a thing could have alerted the authorities to the inapplicability of the response. Hence it was not surprising to note that even during that time he has bragged in his journal entries about the fake regret, and this has even resulted in applause upon himself.6 True to these preliminary signs, Harris was still under his psychologist’s care when the planned attack with Klebold was executed.

Conclusion

What could be found in the case of Harris and Klebold even after they were sentenced to juvenile diversion was to go with their planned killings of students and other people. It would seem that the treatment administered and mandatory classes and visits to parole officers, which are part of institutional response to the problem, were not effective. To say that the institutional response was inadequate is to blame the institutions while to say that is adequate or appropriate is to overlook the killing spree which is of course horrible. To balance things, it is perhaps best to say that determined criminal is almost inevitable unless better research could help decision-makers to update the present laws or rule on juvenile delinquency. There is, therefore, a need to update the present level of research to possibly update the ways to address this kind of problem.

Reference

  1. “Columbine”. The Final Report. No. 9, season 1.
  2. Release of juvenile records The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, 2002.
  3. Akers 1994, Siegel 1992.
  4. Jerald Block. Lessons From Columbine: Virtual and Real Rage, American Journal of Forensic Psychiatry. 2007.
  5. The Depressive and the Psychopath. Web.
  6. Dylan’s Journal Entries. Web.
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