BCJ210 Juvenile Justice

Routine Activities Theory and Situational Action Theory in Relation to Delinquency

Routine activity theory is among the most influential theories in criminology and posits that for individuals to commit a crime they must be motivated to commit the crime, be in a place where no one can prevent the crime such as a guardian, and have a target of crime (Mohammad, Nooraini, & Hussin, 2018). Based on the fundamental tenets of classical criminology, the theory holds that individuals’ behavior is influenced by routine activities, which create opportunities for crime. Motivation must be present, which is often influenced by the daily activities in an individual’s life or the people one comes into contact. The second tenet of the routine choice theory is that the absence of a capable guardian is needed for an individual to commit the crime. This means that without the guidance of a guardian, individuals are likely to engage in crime such as harassing others, stealing, or engaging in other criminal behavior. The other tenant is that for an individual to commit a crime, he/she must have a target, which means without a target crime is not likely to happen. From this, we can deduce that people are rational beings who engage in criminal behaviors for as long there is a motivation, no guardian to stop the criminal behavior, and a target. Within the criminal justice system, routine activities theory has been used to understand delinquency patterns and stop crime.

Within the realms of delinquency, situational action theory posits that criminal behavior is a moral action. The theory assumes that individuals engage in criminal activities because the crime is seen as an action alternative. According to Debbie (2016), individuals are likely to commit a crime based on their characteristics, experience, setting. To get a better understanding of the theory in relation to delinquency, SAT perceives criminal activities as practices or behaviors that go against the moral rules of conduct. The theory uses the perception-choice process to explain the action alternatives and choice influences of individual behavior. Thus, guided by this theory, delinquency is seen as an outcome of a perception-choice process influenced by an individual’s propensity to crime and exposure to criminal settings. This means that people with high propensity are more likely to be delinquent, while people with low propensity are less likely to commit a crime.

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Debbie, S. (2016). Causes of the causes of juvenile delinquency: Social disadvantages in the context of Situational Action Theory. European Journal of Criminology, 14(2), 143-159.

Mohammad, T., Nooraini, I., & Hussin, N. A. M. (2018). Operationalizing routine activity theory in juvenile delinquency: A social work perspective. International Social Work. DOI: 10.1177/0020872818796134.

Intake Screening and Intake Officers

In the United States, the juvenile justice system is responsible for handling legal matters concerning juveniles who include people below 18 years. Juvenile courts are controlled by local jurisdiction in every state and are usually different from the criminal (adult) court. When juveniles are arrested, they are assigned an intake officer who screens and assesses the children before taking the next step. Usually, intake procedures are different based on various jurisdictions and can be conducted by intake officers, though some police officers, social workers, probation staff also conduct these screenings. During the intake screening, the intake officer evaluates the offender to determine the next step. According to the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (U.S.) (2014), when juveniles enter a juvenile justice facility, they must receive the initial screening, risk assessment, and follow-up assessment. Usually, the initial screening takes place within the first 24 hours after entry into the juvenile justice facility. Notably, sometimes screening may take several days to be completed, especially for intoxicated juveniles, individuals showing signs of mental illness, or with heightened stress levels due to arrest or incarceration among others. The results of the intake screening contain various sources of information and the way these sources contributed to findings and recommendations.

During the intake screening process, the intake officer usually reviews the case, records the offender’s age, the seriousness of the offense, school records, juvenile court records, and family information (“The functioning of the juvenile justice system,” 2018). Afterward, the intake officer has various discretionary options to handle the juvenile offender. Firstly, the intake officer may request a formal intervention by the court. Secondly, the intake officer may proceed to formally handle the case or thirdly dismiss the case. Usually, when the intake officer recommends court intervention, one or two petitions are filed. The delinquency petition explaining the allegations of the offense and requesting the juvenile to be adjudicated. The waiver petition is filed to request transfer of the case from a juvenile court to a criminal court depending on the seriousness of the offense. Importantly noted, the majority of the juvenile cases are often handled formally or informally. In other cases, they are often dismissed due to lack of sufficient evidence to prosecute the juvenile.


“The functioning of the juvenile justice system.” (2018). Sage Publications, Inc. Retrieved from https://us.sagepub.com/sites/default/files/upm-binaries/95058_Mallet_Juvenile_Delinquency_Chapter_1.pdf

Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (U.S.). (2014). Screening and assessing adolescents for substance use disorders. Rockville, MD: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Blended Sentence Statutes

In the United States, blended sentencing refers to a combination of both the juvenile sanction and an adult criminal sentence (Schaefer & Uggen, 2016). Usually, blended sentencing targets repeat criminal offenders who are 15 years and above. Ideally, the blended system was adopted under the assumption that the juvenile court is ill-equipped to punish offenders and deter crime in individuals below 18 years. Importantly, there are five types of blended sentencing as Benekos and Merlo (2016) elaborate. The first type if the juvenile-exclusive blend where the offender’s case is processed in a juvenile court and the judge must decide between a juvenile or criminal (adult) sanction. Usually, if the offender is adjudicated, he/she receives a sentence in the juvenile correctional system or the criminal correctional system. The second type is the juvenile-inclusive blend where the judge can simultaneously impose a juvenile and adult system. Mostly, with this sentencing, the adult correctional sanction is suspended but can be revoked to have the juvenile complete the criminal sanction. The third type of blended sentencing is the juvenile contiguous, which involves the imposition of a sentence that exceeds the juvenile corrections agency age limit. When this happens, the offender is expected to transfer to an adult correction facility to complete his/her term. This means even when an individual reaches the jurisdictional age limit he/she cannot be released and will have to continue serving his/her term in an adult facility. For instance, in Texas, the age limit for juveniles is 17. This means if an individual gets 20 years at the age of 15, then he/she serves until the age of 17 and is later transferred to an adult correctional facility. The fourth type of blended sentencing is the criminal-exclusive blend, which is different from the other three types of blend sentencing. Under this type of blend, the judge can only issue one of the sentencing – juvenile or adult correctional systems. The last type of blend sentencing is the criminal-inclusive blend, which is similar to the juvenile-inclusive type except that involves sentencing in an adult criminal court. In this case, the offender receives two sentencing but the adult sanction is suspended pending revocation or violation.


Schaefer, S. S., & Uggen, C. (2016). Blended Sentencing Laws and the Punitive Turn in Juvenile Justice. Law and Social Inquiry, 41(2), 435-463.

Benekos, P. J., & Merlo, A. V. (2016). Controversies in juvenile justice and delinquency. London: Routledge.

Shock Incarceration

Within the juvenile justice system, shock incarceration refers to a community-supported technique designed to reduce recidivism among juvenile offenders (Hickey & Sage Publications, 2003). Usually, the technique involves placing the individual under prison for a brief period as a form of punishment to discourage him/her from reoffending. As Roberson (2016) elaborates, basic shock incarceration is designed to induce heightened stress levels to help individuals initiate personal changes and deviate from crime. The idea of using shock incarceration or popularly known as boot camps is that military behavior promotes law-abiding behavior. Consistently, we review the advantages and disadvantages associated with shock incarceration in juvenile.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Shock Incarceration

One of the advantages of the shock incarceration technique is that it allows inmates to reform their behavior. As compared to the normal prison, shock incarceration focuses on juvenile offenders who are not hardened criminals to give them a chance to reform from their deviant behavior. The program focuses on instilling discipline, nurturing healthy lifestyles, and helping the youth to break from bad habits. For instance, according to Roberson (2016), one study found that the emotional distress experienced by participants at the onset of the program triggered their desire to change. Additionally, Roberson further notes that exposing juvenile offenders to shock incarceration also provides them with other resources such as academic education, rehabilitative programs, drug treatment, and individual counseling, which are beneficial to an individual’s wellbeing. On the other hand, one of the major disadvantages of shock incarceration is that it is a quick fix method for juvenile offenders. The idea behind shock incarceration is that within the short period that a person is in shock incarceration he/she is going to change. Additionally, as Roberson expounds the effects of rehabilitative programming are often effective when counselors relate to victims in a warm and supportive way. Unfortunately, the environment provided by the shock incarceration technique is authoritative, cold, and not supportive in the manner of a rehabilitative environment. This means that individuals are likely to change for only a few days and later go back to their criminal behavior because the treatment was not effective. 


Roberson, C. (2016). Juvenile Justice: Theory and Practice. London: CRC Press.

Hickey, E. W., & Sage Publications. (2003). Encyclopedia of murder & violent crime. Thousand Oaks, Clif. : Sage Publications

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