The Juvenile Justice System

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Should criminal acts by youths be given the same weight as those committed by adults, or should they be seen as mistakes that can be corrected by care and counseling? (Gaines & Miller, 2013, p. 502) A juvenile delinquent is defined as minors, usually defined as being between the ages of 10 and 18, who have committed some act that violates the law. These acts aren’t called crimes as they would be for adults. Rather, crimes committed by minors are called delinquent acts . The juvenile system goes through the course of rehabilitation, punishment, treatment, and custody. Many believe juveniles commit these delinquent acts due to exposure to social problems such as violence, racism, poverty, and culture.

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In the nineteenth century, all juvenile delinquents were tried as adult offenders. Today, adult offenders and juvenile offenders are tried under separate courts, with separate standards. In a 2003 poll, almost sixty percent of Americans indicated that they favored trying violent youths in adult criminal courts instead of juvenile courts. (Gaines & Miller, 2013, p. 503) Within the United States juvenile courts, it depends on which state a juvenile resides in to determine what the minimum age is that they would be tried as an adult offender. For instance, in Utah, the minimum age is 14-15 years old, which is among the eldest in the country. In Arizona, there is no age minimum to which a juvenile can be tried as an adult. Today, Juveniles do not possess the same constitutional rights when charged with a crime as adults do. Such as, they do not have the right to a jury trial, but they do obtain the right to probable cause needed to search a minor. The objective of this is give focus to the juvenile, not the crime.

Criminal behavior is defined as a behavior under violation of governmental laws that are punishable by law. Juvenile criminal behavior includes carrying weapons, participating in physical fights, driving under the influence, stealing, vandalism, etc. Research leads people to believe that by the age of fourteen, people have the same mental ability to make the adequate decisions adults (those eighteen and older) make. Essentially, distinguishing what is right and what is wrong. Although, the human brain does not stop developing until approximately the age of 25. This being so, people under this age do not have the same thinking process as people 25 and older. Which could result in poor decision making. This does not mean that they should not be punished for making poor decisions, but that the standards should be different for the different age groups.

The american juvenile system strives to control and prevent misbehavior and serious acts committed by minors. The Uniform Crime Report (UCR) compiles official data on crime in the United States, published by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). According to the UCR in 2010, juveniles accounted for 13.7 percent of violent crime arrests, and 12.6 percent of general criminal arrests. To break it down by category of crime, juveniles were responsible for 9 percent of all murder arrests, 11 percent of all aggravated assault arrests, 14 percent of all forcible rapes, 20 percent of all weapon arrests, 24 percent of all robbery arrests, 23 percent of all Part 1 property crimes, and 10 percent of all drug offenses. (Gaines & Miller, 2013, p. 509) There are many strategies to prevent juvenile delinquency. Such as school and community based programs like the D.A.R.E and neighborhood watch programs.

There is a track system the juvenile justice system must follow. The track system first goes through a referral from either a non law enforcement source or a law enforcement source. The referral leads to the intake which can result in detention, being diverted from the juvenile justice system, waiver to the adult court, or it can go into formal processing. When it gets to formal processing, it will either get a waiver into the adult court, or it will flow into adjudication. Once it hits adjunction, the defendant will either be found guilty or not guilty. If the defendant is guilty, they will either face the consequence of probation supervision, or secure or nonsecure confinement. Police have stronger authority to juveniles than adults because they have the ability to take youths into custody for status offenses. Status offenses are offenses only prohibited by minors such as violating curfew.

Risk factors are any attributes, characteristics or exposures of an individual that increases the likelihood of an event or action. There are four risk factors that are used to explain juvenile delinquent behavior. The factors are age, substance abuse, family issues, and gangs.

One way age is correlated with juvenile delinquent behavior is the older a person is, the less likely he or she will exhibit criminal behavior. (Gaines & Miller, 2013, p. 514) People tend to commit less criminal activity the older they get because we go through events such as marriage and career which tends to mature us and decline interest in criminal behavior.

Substance abuse is correlated with juvenile criminal behavior by increasing the probability of violent acts, sexual behavior, health decline, and academic failure. The major criminal behavior caused by substance abuse by a juvenile is driving under the influence. Driving under the influence causes death to nearly 2,500 minors each year.

Family issues correspond to juvenile offending behavior by a lack of a parental role model, parental and/or sibling drug abuse, poverty, deprevations (food, shelter, etc), parental/sibling gang relations, etc. Child abuse is defined as mistreatment of children by causing physical, emotional, or sexual damage without any plausible explanation, such as an accident. (Gaines & Miller, 2013, p. 515) Youths who suffer from child abuse or neglect are at a greater risk for committing criminal acts.

Gangs commit delinquency by forming a group with a special shared characteristic to engage in criminal activity together to benefit the group. Youth gang is defined as a self formed group of youths with several identifiable characteristics, including a gang name, and other recognizable symbols, a geographic territory, and participation in illegal activities. (Gaines & Miller, 2013, p. 515) Gangs have been in the United States since around 1780 and there are still currently around 20,000 gangs throughout the country today. Gang population tends to correlate with juvenile delinquency population. The areas with the highest populations of gangs tend to be in Chicago and Los Angeles, which also happen to be among the highest juvenile criminal behavior populations.

Diversity is having different forms of things pertaining to a specific idea. Although there tends to be trends in age, gender, race, and ethnicity, there is diversity throughout juvenile delinquency. For instance, the average gang member is seventeen to eighteen years old. Within the United States, approximately 49 percent of gang members are hispanic, 35 percent are african american, 9 percent are white, and 7 percent belong to other racial and ethnic backgrounds. (Gaines & Miller, 2013, p. 516)

In conclusion, the juvenile justice system must hold a standard of Parens Patriae. Parens Patriae is defined as a doctrine that allows the state to step in and serve as a guardian for children, the mentally ill, the incompetent, the elderly, or disabled persons who are unable to care for themselves. An example of this is how a judge has power to change custody of a child. When children are put through something as custody of the state, they are more likely to be a participant in juvenile delinquency. Other circumstances that influence juvenile delinquency is exposure to violence, racism, poverty, and culturalism. As a juvenile delinquent goes through the justice system they will experience punishment as well as rehabilitation. The ultimate goal of the American Juvenile Justice System is to ensure public safety, skill development, habilitation, rehabilitation, address treatment needs, and reintegration of youth into the community.

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The Juvenile Justice System. (2019, Oct 30). Retrieved June 29, 2022 , from
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