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Should We Keep the Juveniles and Adutls Separate in the Criminal Justice System

Essay by   •  September 9, 2012  •  Essay  •  2,941 Words (12 Pages)  •  1,680 Views

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The criminal Justice System is a set of legal and social institutions for enforcing the criminal law in accordance with a defined set of procedural rules and limitations. In the United States, there are separate federal, state, and military criminal justice systems, and each state has separate systems for adults and juveniles. There are two separate justice systems and the goal of both is to reduce crime but there are definite differences between the two.

In the Juvenile Justice System criminal offenders are tried in either district or circuit court, but those who are under a specific age, mainly 18 years old, are tried in juvenile court. The proceedings in juvenile court are not considered "criminal" and an offender is represented by appointees of the court who decide what would be in the child's best interest. A criminal defendant will either be found guilty or not guilty by a court, but a juvenile offender will be determined as delinquent or not delinquent. A criminal offender may be sentenced to a specific amount of time in jail, but juvenilia may be sent to a certain rehab facility depending on the offense. The juvenile justice system recognizes that children may not understand that their actions are wrong and can be influenced by outside forces. The system assumes young offenders are receptive to rehabilitation. The juvenile system is concerned with treatment and rehabilitation, while the adult system focuses more on punishment.

The purpose of having a separate justice system for juveniles is that we want to give the youth who break the law the chance to obtain meaningful rehabilitation. Its focus is rehabilitation rather than punishment. Most juveniles don't understand right from wrong and commit less serious offenses such as curfew violations, truancy and unruly behavior. The vast majority of juvenile arrests are for nonviolent crimes. To punish a child for doing such an offense and try them as adults would be a bit extreme. Punishing adults and children the same way wouldn't be fair because they don't necessarily have the same mind set and children need to be taught right from wrong and adults should know right from wrong. The juvenile justice system will allow the arrested the humiliation of facing their parents, staying in a juvenile hall, and communicating with a probation officer or judge or both. Most underage offenders who are caught and arrested will not be arrested as adults.

Age is the most important criterion separating the juvenile court from the adult criminal court. State laws vary in the minimum and maximum age restrictions. Under common law, the minimum age for holding a person accountable for criminal behavior is 7 and the maximum age is the age a person is defined as an adult. Most states it is 17 or below. It is important to keep juveniles and adults separate when it comes to the criminal justice system.

One reason that keeps the juvenile justice system separate from the adult justice system is the public safety issue. Juveniles who commit a crime usually get a fine or juvenile detention centers or probation, or community service. Juveniles are closely monitored which is less of a threat to the society. Probation means testing of behavior and someone who is on probation is ordered to follow certain conditions set by the court under the supervision of a probation officer. They are required to follow certain rules like abide by a curfew, have a job, live at a certain place and not leave the jurisdiction, not associate with certain people, no drinking or doing drugs, and obey the orders of their probation officer. While on probation, juveniles may have to wear a monitor that signals where they are, submit themselves to drug/alcohol testing or treatment. They may also have to do community service work. If a juvenile fails to abide by the rules set for them then they will face detention. But being so closely monitored they are more reluctant to obey the rules. It is a good deterrent for disobeying the law again. Being hesitant to break the rules while on probation keeps the public feeling safer. Juveniles who commit crimes in their youth may grow up to be upstanding citizens if they are surrounded by positive influences.

Another reason that the juvenile justice system is a good idea is the rehabilitation aspect. There is new evidence stating that governments are finally understanding what a tragic mistake they made during the 1990s when they began trying larger numbers of children as adults instead of sending them to the juvenile justice system. Research has shown that these young people are vulnerable to battery and rape at the hands of adult inmates and more likely to become violent, lifelong criminals than those who are held in juvenile custody (New York Times p20). So the chances of rehab are slim when being tried as an adult. While in the juvenile justice system, offenders who need to be incarcerated are put in juvenile detention centers. These are good for a few reasons. The first reason being that the offenders are surrounded by other offenders their own age, which creates a safer environment. This is helpful because all the juveniles are in there to get help and learn more about what is right and wrong. Most adults are more likely to repeat offenses and are set in their ways. Adults know right from wrong and understand consequences prior to committing a crime. So if you put juveniles in the mix, they tend to become confused. Not all juveniles don't know right from wrong but once they are punished for wrongdoing it's easier to get them to understand what they did was wrong. The second reason detention centers are a good thing for juveniles is that it gives them a chance at rehabilitation. Officers in juvenile detention centers are trained to work with juveniles and when placed in the juvenile justice system instead of adult court, offenders have a better chance of receiving rehabilitation to prevent future crimes.

Another good reason that the juvenile justice system is a good idea is deterrence. Either if a juvenile is put on probation, or has to do community service or is put in a juvenile detention center, they are being deterred from committing any further offenses. Especially in a detention center, they don't get to be with family and may get homesick. To some, being away can be very traumatizing and knowing that they could wind up in a situation like that will deter them from committing another crime or deter them from committing one in the first place. There are two kinds of deterrence; General and Specific. So if the knowledge of what may happen if they commit a crime deters them from committing a crime that is general deterrence. Knowledge and experience of punishment when committing a crime deters them from committing a crime again is specific deterrence. Also the knowing what could happen to them if they were tried as an adult would

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