Keeping young people in education is key to reducing career criminals, a leading judge has claimed.
Principal Youth Court Judge Andrew Becroft has claimed there were 10 key issues affecting the lives of young people, that make them more likely to commit offences.
These 10 issues are (source: Fairfax News):
(1) Family, and lack of family support:
"Very few serious youth offenders come from stable, two-parent homes." Most youth offenders, in his experience, had gone through regular upheaval in their family lives.
(2) School attendance, learning disabilities:
Foetal alcohol disorder was underdiagnosed. Dyslexia and other learning difficulties make it hard to remain engaged. "The more time a young person spends at school, the less time out taking risks."
(3) Income inequality:
"Until it is addressed, problems will continue." Child welfare was deeply linked to the gap between rich and poor, with families living below the poverty line meant they struggled to offer adequate care.
(4) Violence among young people and in the home:
Experience of family violence, or violence or bullying at school, is common amongst most youth offenders. Becroft told of a mother who blamed herself, after telling her son to "beat the crap" out of someone if he got in a fight.
(5) Drug and alcohol abuse:
"Do RTD makers really not know the group most attracted to them is the under-18s?" Alcohol and drugs at at an early age are common factors amongst youth offenders, told Becroft. Family members are often the providers, especially to males, because it's seen as "just what boys do".
(6) Maori in the court system:
Maori made up 19 per cent of 14-16-year-old appearances, but 55 percent of Youth Court appearances. They made up 62 per cent of those in custody. More needs to be done in Maori communities.
(7) Gangs, and a pressure to "pick red or blue":
Young people living in gang areas found themselves pressured to support a gang, despite whether they were involved or not. This was often a first step towards regular serious and violent offending.
(8) Lack of male role models:
"I've seen too many boys in court supported by just their mothers or grandmothers." Mentoring and buddy systems in schools could help to introduce positive male figures the lives of boys most at-risk.
(9) Community connectedness: "Every young person needs at least four adults to be interested in their life." The raising of well-adjusted young people is not just a case of having a decent home; community figures, teachers and extended family members often play vital roles in giving young people direction and hope.
(10) Seeing and learning good values:
"Every adult, especially teachers, needs to be able to show young people some values are non-negotiable." Integrity, kindness, honesty and respect are values needed to be seen by young people in all aspects of their lives ; parents, teachers, friends and community members should all play a part.