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Evaluation of the Pennsylvania Juvenile Justice System

1551 words (6 pages) Essay in Criminology

18/05/20 Criminology Reference this

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Mission and Goals

The mission of the Juvenile Court Judges’ Commission is to give the administration, advice, preparing and backing to empower Pennsylvania’s adolescent justice framework to accomplish its objectives identified with network protection, wrongdoer responsibility, rebuilding of wrongdoing victims, and youth competence advancement. The Juvenile Court Judges’ Commission was set up by the Pennsylvania Legislature in 1959. The Juvenile Court Judges’ Commission is in charge of: (1) Promoting adolescent courts concerning the correct consideration and upkeep of reprobate and ward youngsters; (2) building up norms overseeing the regulatory practices and legal strategies utilized in adolescent courts; (3) setting up faculty practices and business guidelines utilized in probation workplaces; (4) gathering, accumulating and distributing adolescent court measurements; and (5) controlling an award in-help program to improve district adolescent probation (JCJC, n.d.).

The Pennsylvania Juvenile Justice System is a dynamic and regularly changing foundation devoted to serving the Commonwealth’s adolescent wrongdoers, victims, networks, and families. Two key occasions have conceptualized and characterize the reason and obligations of the Commonwealth’s adolescent justice framework. First in 1995, Act 33 was passed in which the objectives of Balanced and Restorative Justice were set up. These objectives incorporate network assurance, responsibility, and competency advancement. Second, in 2011, the Juvenile Justice System Enhancement Strategy was embraced to improve the limit of the framework to accomplish its fair and helpful justice mission through the execution of evidence-based practices (JCJC, n.d.). Largely this event implied the adolescent justice framework was entrusted to similarly address network security, injured individual reclamation through responsibility, and youth recovery through competency advancement.

Additionally, Balanced and Restorative Justice guarantees that no one stakeholder group (i.e., injured individual, network, adolescent) is hollowed against another. Rather, each gathering’s need is taken care of and future damage is decreased. For over two decades, the Pennsylvania adolescent justice framework has worked under the precepts of Balanced and Restorative Justice.

The Juvenile Justice System Enhancement Strategy activity was propelled in 2011. Perceiving the developing group of exact research on what works to treat adolescent criminals and lessen mischief to networks and exploited people, shareholders made a structure to improve the limit of Pennsylvania’s adolescent justice framework to accomplish its Balanced and Restorative Justice Mission. This structure approaches partners to employ evidence-based practices with constancy at each phase of the adolescent justice process, to make a pledge to information accumulation, investigation, and explore, and to exhibit a promise to persistent quality improvement in each part of the framework (Blackburn, 2019).

In 2005, Pennsylvania turned into the first of four states picked to partake in the MacArthur Foundation’s Models for Change (MfC) adolescent justice framework change activity. Although the Foundation had given awards in the field of adolescent justice since 1996, the center had been fundamentally in the territories of pre-adult improvement, adolescent justice, and the progression of related laws, arrangements, and practices.

Over several years, critical advancements happened with Pennsylvania’s three focused zones for development: the coordination of psychological well-being and adolescent justice frameworks; the arrangement of aftercare administrations and underpins; and unbalanced minority contact with the adolescent justice framework (JCJC, n.d.). Each county participated in at least one of the focused areas for development. As the work advanced, numerous related areas of adolescent justice wound up engaged with change exercises and new activities that joined “exercises learned” developed therefore.

Nevertheless, the requirement for manageability, it was additionally chosen that any such arrangement ought to likewise be required to fill in as an umbrella under which the whole adolescent justice framework could lock in. It was at this time the Juvenile Justice System Enhancement Strategy (JJSES) was conceived, and a JJSES Leadership Team was designated to lead the work through key components of the change (JCJC, n.d.). Throughout the following two years, the JJSES work concentrated on the improvement of a statement of purpose, the arrangement of a framework and realistic showing the four phases of progressing JJSES, and the composition of the monograph that gave the foundation (Blackburn, 2019).

Pennsylvania Juvenile Justice System

Siegel and Welsh (2018) details how several states are concerned with the need to prevent future delinquencies before it occurs while also intervening with at-risk children and adolescents.  Pennsylvania has begun to incorporate a research-based approach to guide juvenile justice programming and policy implementations but is limited on prevention tactics (JCJC, n.d). Pennsylvania has also developed many programs that correspond with the development and advancements discussed in Siegel & Welsh (2018), such as use of alternatives to secure detention, aftercare services, community-based probation services, intensive probation services, school-based probation services, and grant-in-aid programs to assist with the juvenile justice process. Pennsylvania has also had a leading constitutional case in juvenile justice as discusses in McKeiver v. Pennsylvania (1971) which held that trial by jury in a juvenile court’s adjudicative stage is not a constitutional right (Siegel & Welsh, 2018).

Several years after Illinois’s first established juvenile court system, Pennsylvania modeled a Juvenile Court Act based on the Illinois law (JCJC, n.d.). While this law did not survive a constitutional change during the early twentieth century, the amended Juvenile Court Act of 1903 was established by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. When this court was first established, the intended jurisdiction of the court would only extend to minor crimes, but during the great depression the expansion of the court’s jurisdiction encompassed all crimes excluding murder or juvenile under the age of 16. Increasing amount of juvenile began to commit crimes to maintain their family life during the depression, so a large influx of juveniles began flooding into the court system. This influx helped change how Pennsylvanian juvenile court systems handled juveniles with additional crimes. Currently, there are restorative justice youth courts that enable juveniles to be heard by a jury of their peers, which allows less strain on law enforcement responding to minor offenses in local schools and promotes respondent behaviors.

Strengths and Weaknesses

Following the implementation of Balanced and Restorative Justice in Pennsylvania, the changes dramatically transformed the Pennsylvania Juvenile Justice System, the response to youthful offenders, and how to better restore those victimized by juvenile crime (Blackburn, 2019). The newly developed idea created additional responsibilities for all members of the juvenile justice system including judges, victims, communities, and offenders (Blackburn 2019). This shift and increased responsibility and accountability toward juvenile justice professionals forced Pennsylvania to spend considerable resources to help educate and train all professional juvenile justice members. This event forced juvenile justice providers statewide conferences, monographs, and evidence-based articles to be discussed and shared at these conferences. This established a strong understanding between the 67 counties of Pennsylvania, by laying out the goals and objectives for the implementation process.

Changing the juvenile justice practice was not easy as there are 67 separate counties within the state of Pennsylvania. There was a Bench Book that was established in 2006 to help juvenile court judges of all experience levels that explained the implementation of the mission and goals of balanced and restorative justice (Blackburn, 2019). This book has since been updated in 2018 with increased legislative changes, adoption of rules, and systematic advances. These continuously updated changes allow the Pennsylvania juvenile justice system to continuously update with effective tactics and ideas that can be used in previously research foundations that explain what works.  Additionally, many states are focusing intently on providing earlier screening and recognition of youth to help identify at-risk youths who may become an offender in the future (Butts & Mears, 2001). The juvenile justice system will be more beneficial when the system focuses on broad prevention, rehabilitation, and early prevention strategies (Butts & Mears, 2001).

Unfortunately, Pennsylvania’s Juvenile Justice Enhancement Strategy does not discuss plans for early prevention and talks briefly of rehabilitation. early mediation counteracts the beginning of reprobate conduct and supports the advancement of a young’s benefits and flexibility. While numerous past methodologies center around fixing unmistakable and longstanding troublesome conduct, research has demonstrated that counteractive action and early intercession are more effective at preventing long-term behavioral effects (Loeber & Farrington, 2000; and Loeber, Farrington & Petechuk, 2003). Pennsylvania needs to establish and implement a feasible prevention practice that can be employed throughout the differing counties.


  • Blackburn, S. (2019). Juvenile Justice in Pennsylvania: Mission‐Driven; Performance‐Based; Outcome‐Focused. Juvenile and Family Court Journal70(1), 73-87.
  • Butts, J. A., & Mears, D. P. (2001). Reviving juvenile justice in a get-tough era. Youth & Society33(2), 169-198.
  • JCJC. (n.d.). Retrieved from
  • Loeber, R., & Farrington, D. P. (2000). Young children who commit crime: Epidemiology, developmental origins, risk factors, early interventions, and policy implications. Development and psychopathology12(4), 737-762.
  • Loeber, R., Farrington, D. P., & Petechuk, D. (2003). Child delinquency: Early intervention and prevention. Washington, DC: US Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.
  • Siegel, L. J., & Welsh, B. (2018). Juvenile delinquency: Theory, practice, and law (13th ed.). Boston: Cengage Learning.
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