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The juvenile justice system is a network of agencies that manage and punish juveniles, whose behaviors have conflicted with the law, in an attempt to prevent them from committing future offenses.
The juvenile justice system was developed in the late 1800s to reform United States policies pertaining to juvenile delinquents. Since the late 1800s, a numerous amount of reforms have been made to make the juvenile justice system more comparable to the adult system. The reforms made are aimed at protecting the "due process of law" rights of juveniles, and creating a repulsion toward prison amongst the young.
Before the Progressive Era, juvenile delinquents, who were over the age of seven, were imprisoned with adults. During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, society's perspective on juvenile delinquents shifted. Early reformers, who were interested in rehabilitating juveniles rather than punishing them, built the New York House of Refuge in 1824. The New York House of Refuge housed juveniles who would have originally been imprisoned in jail with adults. Beginning in 1899, individual states took note of the problem of youth confinement and began establishing similar juvenile reform homes. Early reformatories were similar to orphanages in multiple ways. Many of the juveniles that were housed in the reformatories were orphans and homeless children.
The early changes to the justice system were made under a belief that society had an obligation to recuperate the lives of its juvenile offenders before they became wrapped up in the scandalous activity that they were involved with. The juvenile justice system implemented its jurisdiction within a "parens patriae" role, meaning the state as a parent or guardian. The state accepted the duty of parenting the juveniles until they began to display positive changes in their attitudes and behaviors, or until they became adults.
Juveniles were no longer tried as adult offenders. Their cases were heard, often without an attorney, in an informal court intended specifically for juveniles. Aside from the legitimate facts surrounding the transgression or offensive conduct, any found evidence, would be taken into consideration by the judge. By the 1960s juvenile courts had authority over just about every single case concerning minors, which are any persons under eighteen years old.
Relocations into the adult criminal justice system were possible through a waiver of the juvenile court's authority. The judge may decide that the juvenile in question is not going to respond to the juvenile system and that he or she is enough of a danger to society that the juvenile should be handled as an adult. However, there has to be a hearing where the prosecutor is required to prove that the juvenile should be considered as an adult. If the judge directs the juvenile into the adult system, he or she will be susceptible to any punishment accessible in an adult court. There are also some definite transgressions where a juvenile may be waived into adult court automatically.
The Supreme Court made a decision in 1967 that confirmed the need to oblige juveniles to respect the due process of law rights of juveniles during their court proceedings. The ruling was the outcome of an evaluation of Arizona's juvenile court's decision to imprison Gerald Francis Gault. Gault was put in confinement for making an offensive call to a neighbor while under probation. The juvenile court in Arizona made a decision and arranged to send Gault to the State Industrial School until he became an adult or until he was exempted by due process of law.
The Supreme Court ruling accentuated that juveniles had a right to obtain reasonable treatment under the law. "The ruling also pointed out that minors have the "privilege against self-incrimination," the right to "confrontation and cross-examination," the right to "appellate review," the right to receive a "transcript of the proceedings," the right to obtain notice of charges, and the right to receive legal counsel."
By 1974, the United States had established a powerful impetus regarding the prevention of juvenile delinquency, deinstitutionalizing juveniles who are already in the system, and keeping juvenile delinquents apart from adult offenders. "The Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act of 1974 then created The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), The Runaway Youth Program, and The National Institute for Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (NIJJDP)."
In order to obtain funds made available by The Juvenile and Delinquency Prevention Act of 1974, states were obligated to relocate juveniles away from "secure detention and correctional facilities," to keep juvenile delinquents apart from adult convicts. Part of the logic behind the separation of juvenile delinquents and adult convicts was evidence that juvenile delinquents learned even worse felonious conduct from their older, adult inmates.
Fearing that juvenile crime rates would rise to its peak, legislatures authorized methods developed to "get tough on crime." The Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act of 1974 was revised to incorporate provisions that would permit states to try juveniles as adults for violent transgressions and weapons infringements. In a number of states, minimum confinement standards were also put into place. The anti-crime outlook of the period caused changes to be applied to the juvenile justice system that made it progressively comparable to the adult criminal justice system.
Juveniles, unlike adults may be sent to a juvenile court through arrest, truancy, running away, curfew violations or referrals from teachers, victims or parents. Some youths enter alternative rehabilitation programs instead of the juvenile court system, it depends on the court, jurisdiction and if there are programs available to help the child. Others enter the juvenile justice system.
"Once a juvenile enters the juvenile justice system, he or she will go through the intake process, detention, adjudication, disposition and aftercare." The intake process is acknowledged as prosecution in the adult criminal justice courts. The prosecutor, or the court, will then determine whether to file the case in a juvenile court, or in an adult court. The prosecutor, or the court, will look at aspects like the evidence of the transgression, how serious the transgression is, the juvenile's previous criminal or court history, if any, and how effective rehabilitation methods have been for the juvenile in the past.
"Based on legal and social findings, the case may be dismissed, handled informally, or a formal hearing may be requested." During an informal disposition, the juvenile will consent to several circumstances for a specific amount of time. An official, signed contract of agreement will be made and a probation officer will supervise the juvenile's submission to the conditions agreed upon. Conditions may consist of set curfews, compensations, attending school, counseling, or community service.
Prior to a formal disposition, or during processing, the juvenile may be held in a detention facility. A secure facility will be considered essential if it is decided that it is in the best interests of the juvenile or of the community. within twenty-four hours after being placed in a detention facility, a detention hearing will be held by the court to decide if persistent confinement is justified and suitable. Confinement may continue until the formal hearing and possibly even after adjudication. Once the process reaches formal disposition, a waiver to adult criminal court may be filed.
Justice Department records indicate that about ninety-four percent of juvenile arrests made annually are for non-violent crimes. About six percent of juvenile offenses are violent. According to records, juveniles, who are under eighteen years old, commit about one in five violent offenses. About one third of the total number of juvenile arrests for homicide take place in only four cities. These four cities include: Los Angeles, Chicago, Detroit and New York. Only ten percent of counties across the country had more than one juvenile homicide in 1994; 80 percent had none at all.
Guns have played a significant part in the expansion of violent juvenile offenses in the last few years. "The number of juvenile arrests for homicides committed without guns has stayed the same since 1984, while the number of arrests for homicides with guns quadrupled." Ninety-five percent of the United States' largest cities, along with eighty-eight percent of its smaller cities, suffer from gang-related crimes. About ninety percent of gang members are juveniles. Juvenile murders are often interrelated with gangs. The Los Angeles County estimates that more than forty percent of all murders are accredited to gangs, which is more than double the percentage ten years ago.
The American Bar Association (ABA) believes that public protection is superlatively guaranteed when, instead of punishing juveniles, the system teaches them the repercussions of breaking the law. Most juveniles who come in contact with the juvenile justice system will benefit from services devised specifically to correspond with their needs. Juveniles who do not comply with the law should be provided with the tools they need to become beneficial and positive members of their society.
"A recent analysis by Public/Private showed that children with big brothers and big sisters were less likely to exploit drugs or alcohol, or to have trouble in school. A study by the RAND Corporation discovered that early intervention and prevention programs are cost-effective resolutions for plummeting the juvenile crime rate."
Juveniles will continue to commit crimes, but there are many programs for rehabilitation and prevention. There are television commercials, like the "above the influence" commercials, that are intended to prevent children from trying or doing illegal drugs. There is also the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program (D.A.R.E), and other after school programs, that teach kids the consequences of doing drugs and alcohol.
The juvenile justice system's objective is to prevent juveniles from committing future illegal acts and offenses. Every child's parents, family, and friends are the most significant resources in achieving that objective. There are many ways to help a child succeed. "Listen to your child. Be consistent with your child. Do not physically or verbally abuse your child. Express love and affection. Create a stable family environment. Agree upon and follow house rules. Discuss problems. Meet your child's friends and their parents. Get involved in your child's school. Set a good example yourself. Spend time with your child. Reward positive behaviors. Take care of your own personal problems. Get professional help if necessary."