As the judge in this case, I would make a determination that the child needed leniency and perhaps a better support system. Before thinking about the proper way to deal with the child in the wake of this act, one would first want to get to the bottom of why the young man committed the crime. The child committed the crime, at least in part, because of a lack of quality parenting. It is apparent that his mother has a tremendous amount on her plate, both with work and with raising the child’s siblings. The facts make clear, as well, that the father is simply not present in this child’s life.
What this means is that the child has not been trained on proper decision making techniques. Likewise, there exists a question of whether the young man has been given the financial resources that he needs to get the things necessary for life. While it would not be right to completely absolve the child from responsibility, at his age, one must recognize that the duty of teaching him wrong from right is something that largely falls on the parents (Bartollas & Miller, 2008).
In these sorts of cases, it is absolutely critical to understand the harm that has been done by the child. This was a non-violent offense, and the child has not exhibited any desire to physically harm another person. Rather, he has exhibited some anti-social behavior in stealing, and he has demonstrated that he does not understand why his action was morally wrong. Under the circumstances, it appears to be the perfect situation to apply some leniency to the child rather than applying one of the harsh punishments that the system can dole out for other, more serious offenses.
The theory of parens patriae gives the state some power to step in on behalf of the child. In essence, this theory provides the state with its own parenting ability in those cases where there is neglect in parenting (Sankaran, 2009). The idea is that the state should be able to intervene in the lives of young people in order to ensure that they do not have to suffer negative consequences and so that they do not end up harming other people or themselves. In the United States, however, this must be balanced against the realities of civil rights for parents. While extreme cases may require state intervention, this would not seem to be one of those cases (Haubenreich, 2008). The mother may not be giving the young man the time that he deserves, and she might not have done a great job of teaching right from wrong, but that hardly seems like something that should justify the state stepping in to remove the child from that particular situation. This would set an extremely ugly precedent, giving the state the ability to step in almost anytime a child does something wrong. In essence, the mother appears to care, and given the difficulties, what this child needs is support, not to be removed from his home.
With that in mind, I would recommend no jail time or anything that would have long-term consequences for the child. I would recommend, on the other hand, some community service for the child. I would also recommend that he be entered into any sort of mentoring program that we might have available through the court. At the current time, what the young man needs is a positive influence to show him a little bit of right from wrong. Harsh consequences for this act would be counter-productive (Bernard & Kurlychek, 2010) but it is also smart to take note of the young man’s anti-social behavior in order to cut off a potential problem before it gets bigger.