Juvenile Justice

The Juvenile Justice System as it typically functions in America's
thousands of jurisdictions is the subject that will be covered. The Juvenile
Justice System is defined as that "sociolegal process having responsibility and
authority for public reaction to current juvenile delinquency and deterrence of
future juvenile delinquency, including within that process the public and
private agents, agencies, laws, rules, and policies having to do with juvenile
delinquency"(Weiner, 1987, p.12). This paper will deal with the history of the
juvenile system, the need for the juvenile system, juvenile court functions,
parents in court and programs that have worked, along with ones that haven't.
Because the first formal juvenile court was so labeled on July 1, 1899,
which would make the Juvenile Justice System nearly a century old. However, the
origins of the various components of the JJS go back much further than that.
The notion of separate treatment for children under criminal law goes back to a
very early English law. Children under seven years of age were legally
incapable of committing a crime, and children between seven and fourteen were
presumed incapable, this concept being based upon a child's inability to have a
guilty mind, or mens rea. Thus, from almost the beginning children have been
treated differently from adults who commit the same acts.
The origin of juvenile corrections in the United States goes, back at
least to the opening of the New York House of Refuge in 1825. This house of
refuge was established to meet the same kinds of needs the JJS of today tries to
meet, including avoidance of harsh criminal penalties for unfortunate children,
segregating "predeliquent" children from hardened delinquents, providing
"proper" moral, ethical, political, and social values and role models for
deprived children, and treating such children as victims rather than offenders.
This is the main reason why we do need the Juvenile Justice System.
The function of the juvenile court system is to take a somewhat fatherly
and protective attitude toward children, whether to offer humanitarian
assistance or parental punishment. Juvenile court was primarily established
however by a desire to avoid prisons for children by establishing special
juvenile court which would not send children to prison. The juvenile court is
also used to somewhat scare the young offender with its dark wooden atmosphere
and flags to represent how alive the government is. The courts main function
however is to find the best rehabilitation method for that individual. Should
it be community service, a curfew or counseling, these are just a few options
the court has in sentencing a young offender.
Parents play a big role in the Juvenile Court System. With the parents
at the court hearing, the court can find out if the parent is providing a good
home for the juvenile delinquent. The parents also help out in making the
decision of rehabilitation, with there past experiences that they bring to the
court about the juvenile. Parents can also help out in supervision of the
juvenile while he or she is on orders from the court. Most of all, parents are
there for moral support of there children and help them get through this
difficult run in with the law.
The best treatment for many offenders, diversion supporters argue, is
little or no treatment. This is the case when an offender is young and charged
with nothing more than serious than a status or minor property offense. For
these types of youthful offenders and perhaps others, diversion away from the
juvenile justice system is thought to be the most effective method of
controlling delinquency. This way the juvenile does not get a delinquent self-
image and stigmatize them in the eyes of significant others.
Some of the programs that are currently being used are Probation, "Scared
Straight", Community Treatment, and Institutionalization. Probation currently
is the most frequently employed sentencing option. Each year approximately 70
percent of the juveniles adjudicated delinquent by the juvenile justice system
courts are sentenced to probation. "Scared-Straight" juveniles were taken to
state prisons for intensive confrontation sessions with adult inmates serving
long term or life sentences. Using there own experiences as examples, inmates
told juveniles of the harsh realities of imprisonment. The purpose was to scare
the juvenile straight. Community-based Treatment programs for probationers
stand midway between the loose supervision of routine probation and the secure
custody characteristic of most correctional facilities for juvenile offenders.
Community based programs typically provide more extensive assistance and
stricter enforcement of the conditions of probation. Institutionalizing
juveniles to public or private correctional facilities has been rehabilitate
the young offender. Correctional facilities routinely offer academic and
vocational instruction in hope that better-educated and vocationally skilled
inmates will be less dependent upon release. Most institutions also supplement
these routine efforts with special programs, such as