This paper will explore and give a synopsis on the cycle of juvenile justice. The synopsis will include a look at the past 200 years of juvenile justice policies in the United States. According to the text, Bernard and Kurlychek believe the cycle is driven by several unchanging ideas that force us to repeat, rather than learn from, our history (Bernard, T., & Kurlychek, M. (2010).). Among these beliefs is also that, juvenile crime is at an all-time high and getting worse. They believe that the juvenile justice system itself is responsible for the high crime levels among juveniles. However, in this paper reform of the system will effectively address this problem. Furthermore, because of these issues among the cycle of the juvenile justice system, Bernard and Kurlychek believe that it is inevitable that any reform successfully enacted will help with juvenile crime, since it arises not from the juvenile justice system, but from deeper problems like, social conditions, inequalities and one’s environment. In addition, to help with juvenile crime, this paper will include three best practices for ending the cycle.
Keywords: punishment, juvenile, justice, cycle, crime, treatment
The past 200 years, juvenile justice has undergone a range of transformations. In the United States, about 100 years ago, a separate juvenile justice system was established for the youth. However, throughout most of history, the youth in society did not always enjoy a separate status. Once an individual reached age five or six, she or he became a member of society and was expected to follow the same guidelines as adults. This extended to the field of legal sanctions, where children were viewed as adults and were subject to the same regulations and rules. During this time, a separate system for dealing with youthful offenders did not exist. The laws that had been created made no difference based on age of the offender. The laws allowed for and prescribed harsh punishment towards the young people, which subsequently called for a process of nullification or refusal to put in force the same laws for adults and younger people.
Changes in how to deal with youth crimes emerges in the early 1800s as American society was undergoing major shifts. The industrialization was drawing people to the cities, which caused cities to become overcrowded and a great deal of poverty. The new separate juvenile justice system tried to divert youthful offenders from destructive punishments of criminal courts and promote rehabilitation. They wanted to focus on the child as a person in need of help and not on an act that brought him or her before the court. However, the proceedings were very informal, with a great deal of discretion left to the juvenile court judge. During this time, the judge was to act in the best interest of the child’s procedural safeguards available to adults, for matters such as, the right to know the charges brought against one, the right to an attorney and the right to trial. The court proceedings were closed to the public and juvenile records were to remain confidential, so it would not intervene with the child’s ability to be rehabilitated and reintegrated into society. Language that was used in the juvenile court proceedings even change to wording like, juveniles were not charged with crimes, but rather with delinquencies, they were not found guilty, but are adjudicated delinquent and they were not sent to prison but did go to training schools or reformatory. Furthermore, changes did not just stop here, there are still ongoing changes today within the juvenile justice system to deter youthful members of society from criminal acts.
These ongoing changes within the juvenile justice system has been a major issue for the general public and youthful members of society. This is because many people believe that there is a cyclical pattern in the juvenile justice system, in which the same sequence of polices has been repeated over three times in the last two hundred years (). Since these polices are being repeated it is becoming hard to punish juveniles for their delinquent acts. However, when juvenile crime level is high there are many harsh punishments but few lenient treatments for juvenile offenders. Because of few lenient treatments not being available justice officials are forced to choose between harsh punishment or doing nothing at all. Bernard, Thomas J, and colleagues explore this issue in their book, The Cycle of Juvenile Justice. One should take from this paper a synopsis of this book and three best practices to end the cycle.
Justice officials and the general public believes that the cycle begins at a time when juvenile crime is very high. However, Bernard and colleagues believe that having to choose between harsh punishments and doing nothing at all is part of the problem. This is because harsh punishments and doing nothing all will increase juvenile crimes. The authors believe the best solution is to introduce lenient treatments for juvenile offenders and the juvenile crime rate will decline Many people have their own idea of the juvenile justice system and juvenile delinquency. In addition, these ideas drive the juvenile justice system from policy to policy, which causes it to keep being repeated.
Bernard and colleagues believe that when the juvenile justice system is reform it should provide a brief and readily understandable image of the policies that the reformer want to implement. The reformer should also include why the new policy will work by giving a simple image of the kind of delinquent’s people are. This will help people understand juvenile justice policies and practices. Reformers must get people to understand their ideas about juvenile delinquency and the juvenile delinquent. They must show how these changes will affect the delinquent, crime rate and juvenile justice system. Furthermore, Reformers must first study history and identify aspects of juvenile delinquency and juvenile justice that has remain the same for the last two hundred years and did not work. Bernard et al., (2010) states that the past could help figure out how the juvenile justice system have arrived at their current situation, which also could help them prepare for the future.
The authors in this book go on to include aspects of the juvenile justice and juvenile delinquency they believe have stayed the same for the last two years, which cause the system to repeat itself. For example, juvenile males commit more crime and there are laws that only juveniles must obey (). The authors elaborate on how each aspect effect the youthful members of society. These aspects also have stayed the same and at each point in time, people believe that the juvenile justice system changed. However, the authors did find that youthful males commit more crimes by studying statistics over time. They found that 80 percent of violent juvenile offenders where male and they are highly overrepresented in the population (). The authors found that a lot people believe that increase delinquency comes from gangs and people raising their children without morals today. Seeing all these violent criminal acts among juveniles and high arrest rates, the general public believe that this is a recent phenomenon and youthful members of society was not like this back in the day. Bernard and colleagues go on to show how arrest rates fluctuated back in the day and after World War II arrest increase. During this time people thought juvenile arrest rates were high and getting out of hand. However, when compared to todays arrest rate they were low and older members of society starting to notice that. They now have this mindset that if the juvenile laws were like the old days then the crime rate would be low. Furthermore, this is the misconception that keep the cycle of the juvenile justice system repeating because one minute its harsh punishments and next it is lenient punishments. The authors believe that reformers need to look for times when juvenile delinquency was low and determine the societal factors that led to that instead of implanting policies that were in place years ago.
The authors look back inside the juvenile justice to help individuals understand societal factors that led to juvenile delinquency. They first elaborate on origin of the modern juvenile justice system, which is talked about earlier in this paper. While exploring the cycle of juvenile justice Bernard and colleagues elaborate on factors that may have contributed to delinquency like, industrialization and urbanization. Industrialization is where the number of moveable good increase, which leads to a rise in property crimes committed by juveniles. Urbanization is another one of the important factors because it brought juvenile offenders into close contact with each other, which added the tendency to commit criminal acts. The authors also found that the way the system responded to delinquency in the earlier years also contributed to youthful delinquency. Justice officials would lock youthful individuals up even for minor offenses. However, the authors also wanted individuals to understand the idea of child hood and how it contributed to delinquency. In the earlier years, a lot of families were poor, which caused children to steal from the wealthier people in society. Once delinquency started to increase the first institution was built in New York City.
Bernard and colleagues discuss the earlier times in New York City when they define poor people as pauperism, which is people who are rebellious, lazy, hostile and refuse to work. Paupers stole things, let their children run wild and go into fights with others. People believe paupers were poor because they were corrupt. Prominent citizen believes that if these individuals were honest and hardworking, they would have an adequate lifestyle. Pauperism was the reason New York was in chaos, so established thing like penitentiaries, where prisoners worked in silence and make goods to pay for their stay. The authors discuss pauperism a lot in this book because of the impact it had on society. It called for the first separate juvenile facilities. Therefore, the house of refuge for children in danger of growing up to be paupers and criminals was established which was called the New York House of Refuge.
This is where youth were sentence for their criminal acts. Children were sent here from all over to be punish for their criminal acts. Children would work for eight hours a day and spend four house a day in school. Around this time, other major matters happen like the parens patriae, the case of Mary Ann Crouse and the case of Daniel O’Connell. These was of poor children who were illegally sent to the New York House of Refuge. The O’Connell help establish the first juvenile court in Chicago and the judge ruled that it was illegal to send a poor child to reform schools unless they committed a crime. Furthermore, these court cases the authors expand upon demonstrate how our evolving definitions of delinquent acts and of the delinquent have directly affected people view if what constitute as juvenile justice.
Bernard and colleagues also elaborate on some recent developments in the juvenile justice system, beginning with 1960s due process movement and the early 1970s that represented the first U.S. Supreme Court intervention. To help with the internal workings and process of the juvenile justice, some important cases were involved like, Mapp v. Ohio (1961), which concerned the Fourth Amendment prohibition of unreasonable searches and seizures, and Miranda v. Arizona (1965), which concerned the Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination (). These are two of the five cases the authors include in the book that help establish due process and citizen rights. In fact, Kent v. United States (1966), case was the first juvenile case ever heard by the Supreme Court (). Cases like these also help establish protection for juveniles. However, these cases also showed that the Supreme Court reform does not seem consistent with lessons from history. Theses cases showed that the Supreme court reform over time does not seem fit into the cycle because it does not establish lenient structural treatment nor toughen punishments over long period of time. Furthermore, to help better under this the authors talk about 7 lesson of history on why the Supreme Court reform does not fit into the cycle, like lesson 4 the Supreme Court reform did not attempt to change the behavior of the rich. These lessons were based off the cases that happen throughout history and the reforms.
The first institution for juveniles was establish by men, but the first juvenile court was established as a result of the work done by women. Because of all the cases that happen throughout history, juveniles now had the power to fight against the state and right to be represented by an attorney. The authors explore this more by looking at the aftermath of the due process movement and documenting which proposed changes did and did not occur to the adjudicatory stage. The authors give 7 lesson of history explaining why the adjudication and due process did not work during this time. They found that mainly because justice officials did not provide changes in juvenile courts and juvenile defendants were not being provided satisfactory in due process protection, which lead to petitioned to court and found delinquent. Furth more, the authors also go to find that the courts intentions were not implemented and as we know today, they were using the Get Tough movement. This where they started sentencing juveniles in more punitive measures. In addition, this moment eventually went away once people start seeing that it was too harsh.
Now, in the 21st century the authors find that there may be another reform going on within the system because some states are now recreating juvenile justice systems within adult criminal justice system to handle all adults under the age of 18. They found indications that juvenile courts may also be moving in a more lenient direction in disposition hearings and not in adjudication hearings. Moreover, Bernard and colleagues go on to elaborate on some of the new and not so new ideas and policies emerging today within the juvenile justice system. They look at changes that have occurred so far to see how they will fit into the juvenile justice cycle and what direction it may prescribe for the future. Based on the history of juvenile justice system the authors predict the cycle will continue and juvenile crime will remain high. Bernard and colleagues believe that the cycle of juvenile justice cannot be broken by any juvenile justice policy because all policies are eventually broken. They believe if justice officials wanted to break the cycle, they would have to change their belief that an as-yet undiscovered policy will change juveniles into a low crime rate group. Furthermore, justice officials and the general public ideas is what’s driving the cycle and any new policy that is put into place is retired because of ideas like crime was not like this in the good old days. In addition, the cycle of juvenile justice cannot be broken until people ideas about juvenile delinquency and the juvenile delinquent change.
Justice Officials today are still trying to change the behavior of juvenile delinquents and their parents. However, we must first look at the larger issues that cause youth individuals to become delinquents. This could help with finding ways to end the cycle among juveniles. To help end this cycle, justice officials must first start where the problem begun which is social conditions, then they should add more preventive and community programs that have been proven to work.
Reading this book has taught me that social conditions is where the juvenile delinquency started. If justice officials want to end the cycle they must start with the social problems. These problems begun from things like, modernization and urbanization, where they brought juvenile offender in close contact with each other. These youth were living in areas that generated delinquency. These areas consisted of the poor or lower-class individuals in society. The main issues were the problems these individuals face, like racism, living in poverty, and inequality. This cause disorder among neighborhoods, which leads to antisocial behavior and then juvenile delinquency. However, social changes are required in order to solve the problem with juvenile delinquency. If the justice officials continue to focus on treating the delinquent and not the social conditions that lead to delinquency, the juvenile justice system will continue the cycle.
Since reformers are not willing to change social conditions, other things could be implemented to try to end the cycle like, more community involvement or including policies that have been shown to work in the past. Strengthening the role of families in communities to dissuade juvenile delinquency is a great way to make sure that children are supported in their everyday lives. Having afterschool programs, community partnership programs and family support programs are great ways to keep youth and adults involve in their communities. Once kids are let out of school, studies have shown that most youth commit their criminal acts around that time. However, if children are involved in afterschool programs such as, football, or cheerleading they wouldn’t have time to be in delinquent acts. Having these programs could help end the cycle of juvenile justice because more families would be involved in the community and less crime would be committed by the youth.
Another practice to try to end the cycle is incorporating policies that have proven to work in the past to deter crime. In part of the book, Bernard and colleagues discuss how keeping the ideas and using them over and over is what’s causing the cycle to continue. In order to end the cycle, justice officials must trust that a new policy will work. The authors states that the ideas that the public have about the juvenile justice system is what’s driving the policy because people tend to think crime was not high back in the day. Justice official continue to use old policies that does not work and retire any new one that is put into place. Justice officials should find a point where a policy was working and include that with something new. In order to end the cycle, it must stop repeating itself and to do this, justice officials must come up with new ways to deter youth from committing criminal acts. Furthermore, justice officials should start using policy that have shown to work.
Reading this book has taught me why individuals should start from the past when trying to figure out why something is going wrong. The authors of this books showed why the juvenile justice system kept ending up in a cycle. Social conditions, general public ideas and not giving new policies a try is why the juvenile justice system keep ending up in a cycle. The juvenile justice policies must be changed based on actual performance and not good intentions. Therefore, creating a policy that responds to a problem it has not created would possibly help end the cycle of juvenile justice. Also look at social conditions could help end the cycle because this is where juvenile delinquency started. However, the authors wanted individuals to understand that if justice officials continue to use the general public ideas about delinquency and of the delinquent, the cycle will continue. They must first look at where the problem begun and then trust that a new policy will work.
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