Child Abuse and the Criminal Justice System

"Criminologists and scholars in related fields agree that different forms of childhood maltreatment invites negative behavioural consequences like juvenile delinquency and adult crime."


People who experienced any form of maltreatment as a child, including abuse and neglect, are twice as likely to commit crimes than people who did not. Criminologists and scholars in related fields agree that different forms of childhood maltreatment invites negative behavioural consequences like juvenile delinquency and adult crime. A possible explanation for this is, as autonomy, cognitive abilities, and social context expand in adolescence, experiences of maltreatment could trigger maladaptive individual or peer-based coping strategies associated with delinquency. A study on the difference between childhood and adolescent maltreatment found that both were linked to drug use in early adulthood. However, only adolescent maltreatment predicted violent crime.


It has been found that 48% of prisoners reported having experienced some form of childhood physical abuse, and 52% reported some form of childhood emotional abuse. It was also found that childhood abuse affected 65.7% of incarcerated women compared to 35.5% of incarcerated men. Victims of maltreatment are more likely to use drugs and alcohol than those who have not faced any maltreatment, and are more likely to be convicted of a drug related offence.


"It has been found that 48% of prisoners reported having experienced some form of childhood physical abuse, and 52% reported some form of childhood emotional abuse."

For many, the victimization they endured as a child follows them into prison. Correctional facilities are known for the violence between inmates, and for the violence between inmates and staff members. Inmates who experience victimization inside prisons are significantly more likely to report having experienced victimization in childhood. In one study, around two-thirds of inmates who reported experiencing victimization in prison had reported being physically victimized before the age of 18. The prison climate and culture could in itself trigger unwelcome memories of victimization, provoke symptoms, and create opportunities for re-victimization. Unfortunately, the prison environment often produces conditions that support or encourage victimization.


Research shows that there are multiple risk factors for juvenile delinquency and adult criminal behaviour, and that not all abused and neglected children go on to become delinquents or adult criminals. It has been suggested that since most people who experience childhood maltreatment do not go on to be imprisoned, more research should be done to explore what protects those people from doing so.


Written By: Sydney

References:

https://johnhoward.ca/blog/high-rates-child-abuse-among-canadians-jail/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3793850/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5115874/

https://globalnews.ca/news/4983100/childhood-abuse-canadian-prisoners/

https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles/fs000204.pdf


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