CCJ3024 MWF 10:30
The juvenile justice system is a process involving the courts, law
enforcement agencies, and corrections in an effort to deter, manage, and
maintain juveniles. This process is very different from the adult justice
system and is created to serve people under the age of majority rather than
adults. The juvenile process has its own ways of dealing with its
offenders, and unlike the adult system, the focus is on protection and
rehabilitation rather than punishing the guilty.
Juveniles are individuals that are under the age of majority. This
means that they are under the legal age in their state that allows them to
be tried as an adult. In most states this age is 18, but in a few, the age
of majority is set at 16, 17, or 19. A juvenile delinquent is someone who
has violated a law and is underage. These offenders are also called
The history of the juvenile justice system starts the early 1800’s
during the Progressive movement. Certain people, known as “child savers,”
within the movement began to emphasize parens patriae, a doctrine that
claims the state is obligated to protect the well-being of children and
step in should the circumstances deem necessary. The child savers began to
push legislature and create institutions for juveniles to elevate children
above their criminal environments. The most notable of these institutions
is the New York House of Refuge, which was opened in 1825. Later on, in
1899, the Illinois Juvenile Court Act was passed, guided by the general
principles of the child savers movement and parens patriae. This act
outlined and created the first court designed specifically for juveniles.
After the first juvenile court was established, there were still
several important court cases to help shape it into better form. The most
known case would be Kent v. United States (1966), this case extended the
due process model of criminal justice to the juvenile court system as well.
The decision in Kent’s case would be proved again a year later in In Re
Gault. Later on, in In Re Winship (1970), the burden of proof was upgraded
to “beyond a reasonable doubt” for juvenile acts of delinquency. The
principle of double jeopardy was also applied to the juvenile system
complying with the decision in Breed v. Jones (1975). Additionally, the
case of McKeiver v. Pennsylvania (1971) ruled that juveniles are not
constitutionally granted the right to a jury trial.
Now to examine the system itself. The first portion of the justice
system that a juvenile comes in contact with is the law enforcement agency.
The police can take juveniles into custody for offenses that would not be
considered a crime if committed by an adult. These are called status
offenses. Examples of status offenders are truants, runaways, curfew
violators, and minors in possession of tobacco and alcohol.
Police are faced with the need to use more discretion when dealing
with juveniles because they don’t have the same constitutional rights as
adults. For example, childrenin school can be searched with a warrant or
probably cause. Police officers not only deal with the juvenile and his
offense, but also with his guardian. Typically, when a juvenile is taken
into custody he is released to his guardian instead of having to post bond.
Once a juvenile is processed, they are brought through the court
system. Juvenile courts tend to be informal and private and the
proceedings deal with both the same types of crimes that adults commit and
status offenses. Also, not all of the children that come in contact with
the juvenile court system are criminals. Many times we see cases of
children who are abused by their family and are there because they need the
court to intervene for their own protection. The right for the court to
exercise such authority is based on the principles of parens patriae.
The final stage of the juvenile justice system is corrections. This
is where the most differences are found between the juvenile and adult
justice systems. Treatment and rehabilitation are the focus of the
juvenile system as opposed to the punishment of adult offenders. There are
many different viewpoints on how to best treat juvenile offenders in this
system, and parental involvement is a major key.
One theory on delinquency is that it is a disease that can be treated
with the right medical care and therapy. This treatment model does not
include incarceration. Instead it relies heavily on group therapy,
controlled diets, and prescribed medication.
Another philosophy in juvenile corrections is the community
reintegration model. This is when juveniles are either put in temporary
homes or released to guardians and are required to do community service as
punishment for their crimes. This allows the offender to correct his
mistakes and at the same time become involved with the community.
One other model is called reality therapy. This is when juvenile
offenders will be locked up in a detention facility for a short period of
time to try and scare them in an attempt to make them behave. Having them
talk to prisoners or former inmates will also accomplish this goal.
Some people feel that juveniles should be handled in the “just
desserts” manner. In other words, if you do the crime, you must do the
time. This model stresses the offender’s accountability for their crimes
and is stricter with them regardless of the offence. Even though this is a
much harsher way to handle juvenile delinquency it has been proven that
these children are less inclined to recidivism then those who are put
through other treatment programs.
The prevent/control model is another form of handling juveniles. In
this model the focus is on deterring delinquency before it occurs. This is
done through different types of constructive activities set up for youths.
Types of programs include wilderness programs, sports, and other
recreational activities. The object is to give them positive and
fulfilling activities so that they will not turn to crime. Setting curfews
for those under the age of majority also appears to be helpful under this
The last model I will discuss is the justice model. This model
focuses on fair and reasonable treatment for those found guilty of a crime.
It does not reject the rehabilitative model, but claims that a person’s
voluntary participation in the program is the key to effectiveness.
So that sums up how the juvenile justice system works, but what are
some examples of crimes that land a juvenile in the system? What most
people think of first are the crimes that are committed in schools, these
are the ones that are always on the news. Three main major violent crimes
in schools are rape, robbery, and assault.
First of all, rape is a very serious crime that is committed within
schools. Most likely, the victim is a girl, and the perpetrator is a young
boy who is misinformed on sex and sexual relations, and has a history of
violence to his credit. To prevent rape from happening, it is important to
have programs in school about sexual education to make sure that children
have the appropriate views on the opposite sex, and what is and is not
Good moral backgrounds are very important to establish in children to
prevent school crime. Robbery is all to common among all types of
students, but can not really be stopped until the student has been punished
(including suspension, detention, etc.) enough that he or she finally
realizes what they are doing is ethically wrong.
Assault is another common act of violence in schools. Almost
everyone in the United States has either participated in or witnessed a
fight at school when they were growing up. The only way to handle students
who fight is through student anger management programs and punishment.
Teaching students how to handle their anger without coming to blows is
crucial in their upbringing.
I feel that the education system is making excellent progress in
deterring youngsters from violent crimes in school. With special programs
on sex education and anger management classes paired with the classic
punishments we have all grown accustomed to, they seem to be making
excellent progress with the youth. However, the only setback is the lack
of government funding to support such programs. If I was in charge, I
would make sure that such special programs were made available at every
school. Furthermore, creating a positive environment for children to
attend school is also important, and some school buildings are just
pathetic and rundown. These schools need to be rebuilt along with
additional schools to prevent massive overcrowding.
In conclusion, the success of the juvenile justice system is very
important to our country and it does not appear that any one philosophy or
alternative is one hundred percent effective. It is crucial that the
juvenile justice system is constantly studied and reformed to meet the
needs of the juveniles and society. After all, the children are the