Delinquents are young offenders aged seventeen years and below. The system was founded in 1868 to defend children from being influenced by adult criminals. It was also meant to avert young offenders from criminal courts and thus encourage remedy based on the needs of young criminals. Some juvenile delinquencies include being uncontrollable by parents, getting away from home, or being in the company of criminals (Klein, p. 102). With the formation of the criminal justice system, delinquents are protected from being abused in adult prisons. This paper discusses the juvenile justice system and due process for juvenile offenders.
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One of the greatest mandates of any government is to protect its subjects from harm, both real and imagined. One of the basic ways through which this is done is the arrest and locking up of criminals. However, this principal approach has no behavioral premise due to the fact that its main preoccupation is public protection. Furthermore, the justification for incapacitation as being aimed at the achievement of the social well-being of the greater populace forms the utilitarian political premise of incarceration. The general objective of deterrence is the justification of punishment. The juvenile criminal justice system was formed to help criminal youths as people who have lost direction and not as hardened criminal offenders. The underlying idea is that proper disciplinary guidance in a youth’s life can help him or her to become a responsible member of society. Therefore, the system focuses on rehabilitating juveniles; it does not aim at detaining or punishing them. Special courts are created to deal with cases involving juvenile delinquents. These are separated from regular courts and they deal with youths who cause social problems as well as those who break the law (Ackley, p. 145).
Juvenile courts are not open to the public thus making them different from regular courts. In juvenile courts, records of offenses are sealed to avoid them from being seen. In most cases, juvenile criminal records are cleared after attaining a particular age, normally eighteen or twenty-one. Youth offenders in the juvenile prison system are assisted by being given opportunities to attend schools and receive diplomas of high school level or college certificates ((Ackley, p. 146). In other cases, young offenders act as assistants to teachers, gardeners, or work in kitchens. This is meant to rehabilitate them to become useful society members.
The due process of the juvenile justice system depends on the intensity of the offense committed by the youth. When the delinquent is arrested, it is decided whether to handle the matter in juvenile court or other alternative programs such as schools. However, when the decision is to take the matter to juvenile court, the intake section of the court or the prosecuting legal representative establishes whether adequate reasons exist upon which to file a petition. The petition is meant to request for an adjudicatory hearing or a transfer jurisdiction to regular adult criminal courts (Champion, p. 98).
With an acceptance to have an adjudicatory hearing, the juvenile is taken to a juvenile court. Substantial carefulness is taken during proceedings in juvenile courts and juries handle juvenile crimes. The juries dispose of cases carefully unlike in adult criminal courts. Some of the options applied in disposing cases include probation, restriction to a housing facility, fines, or restitution (Clemont, p. 55). Therefore, the juvenile justice system has adopted a more relaxed approach to proceedings in juvenile courts. However, some juvenile criminal cases are taken to regular adult courts. In this case, young offenders are put on trial like adult criminals. This results in their imprisonment like any adult criminal. This has made some juvenile advocates challenge the court as abusing juveniles’ rights.
Other options to remedy juvenile delinquents include community-based programs, officials of schools, and law implementation, and social services organizations. These programs can also offer the youths other useful choices instead of engaging in criminal activities. Other interventions include guidance and counseling to educate youths on matters like drug abuse and responsible living. In this way, youths are warned against engaging in crimes like theft, rape, robbery with violence among other crimes (Klein, p. 52). Other options may include allowing youths to participate in constructive activities such as sports and community development projects. These projects may prove profitable to them if they enable youths to earn some income. Thus, through these options, youths engage in important jobs and avoid criminal activities that may result in court trials.
Some of the reasons that influence juveniles to engage in criminal offenses include idleness and their large numbers, especially in urban centers. They find no options in life except to engage in drug abuse and form gangs. This in turn results in crimes like theft, murder, robbery, and rape among others. Other influences emerge from media whereby youths are exposed to violent activities being broadcasted in television programs, music, movies and video games. Children are exposed to violent and aggressive scenes from an early age thus developing into violent and aggressive youths. Moreover, children from troubled families become more aggressive and violent due to their vengeful nature (Elrod, p. 29).
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The juvenile justice system helps young criminals by rehabilitating them to become responsible members of society. The system ensures that cases of delinquents are heard in juvenile courts instead of regular courts. This guarantees that delinquents are guided to become morally upright individuals instead of being imprisoned or punished. The due process of hearing is done carefully by juries and decisions made are geared toward reinforcing good behaviors. Some of the causes of juvenile delinquency include idleness, drug abuse, media that broadcast violence, and troubled families among others. Besides the juvenile justice system, other options for dealing with juvenile delinquency include school officials, law enforcement, and community-based programs.
Crime is asymptomatic of social problems (Parsloe, p. 65). Most crimes are attributed to social factors such as drug habits and poverty, rather than petty thieving and opportunism. Thus, criminal justice and crime are both conceptual frameworks of a system that reflects social problems.
Thus, the plan by the government to reduce prison populations has to take into consideration the need to care for offenders of this kind in society. Juvenile Detention systems should therefore have the principal aim of eliminating the root cause of crime through its use in conjunction with other community penalties through the promotion of rehabilitation, above all other aims of punishment. Few criminals are a clear threat to public security and thus have to be faced with incarceration.
However, incarceration is also severely punitive, in regard to many common crimes and this makes it highly likely to result in embitterment of inmates rather than rehabilitating them.
- Ackley, Katherine. Perspectives on contemporary issues: Reading across the disciplines. New York: Cengage Learning, 2008.
- Champion, Daniel. The juvenile justice system: delinquency, processing, and the law. Kent, OH: Prentice Hall, 2007.
- Clemont, Mathew. The juvenile justice system: law and process. Woburn, MA: Butterworth-Heinemann, 2002.
- Elrod, Peter. Juvenile justice: a social, historical, and legal perspective. Sudbury, MA: Jones & Bartlett Publishers, 2005.
- Klein, Mary. The Juvenile Justice System. Eau Claire, WI: Sage Publications, 2007.
- Parsloe, Jacqueline. Introduction to Juvenile Justice System. London: Oxford Publishers, 2008.