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Failures Of The Juvenile Justice System Criminology Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Criminology
Wordcount: 1579 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Juvenile justice systems across the country are experiencing major challenges resulted in a failure to meet their original goal to change the deviant behavior of the juvenile delinquent by focusing on rehabilitation in order to ensure juveniles have an opportunity for a future life as a productive citizen. Despite this goal juvenile justice system, in many cases, has failed to rehabilitate the juvenile and instead have become more prone to placing juvenile delinquents in juvenile detention facilities, or trying them as adult offenders. Once the juvenile delinquent becomes a part of the system, adult or juvenile, they have difficulty escaping from the stigma and moving on to create better lives.

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Instead of delinquents making positive changes in their life, they instead graduate up to adult prison and become adult criminal offenders. These failings within the juvenile justice system can be attributed to the lack of education, lack of support services and an inability to incarcerate the more serious juvenile offenders. In fact 80% of juveniles who enter New York’s juvenile facilities end up returning or graduating to adult prisons within three years (Louis, 2008). This recidivism rate is 20% higher that the New York adult criminal justice system. In other states, such as Oklahoma or Texas, the rate is even higher.

The juvenile justice system has also failed to provide a fair and equal juvenile justice process which is obvious based on the racial disparities present in America’s juvenile justice system. Minorities, African Americans especially, are placed in juvenile detention centers or receive waivers that require them to be tried as adults. These failures have been attributed to the delinquent or criminal behavior of the minority by the juvenile justice system but by critics it has been attributed to racial profiling of police and bias in the juvenile courts.

The fact is in the juvenile justice system there have been many failures that have resulted in many challenges. These challenges make it difficult for the juvenile justice system to meet its original goal of rehabilitation and have resulted instead with juveniles that are not reformed but instead have the tools to become adult offenders. When juveniles are removed from their homes and placed in a juvenile detention they do not become reformed but instead there behavior will worsen in this type of an environment. Juveniles that are laced in detention centers are faced with becoming more aggressive than the next juvenile just to survive. Instead of learning to become more productive members of society the juvenile learns new criminal skills.

Juvenile offenders in current society commit the same delinquent acts of the past but they also commit offenses that are far more serious and violent than when the juvenile justice system was first established. Instead of rehabilitating juvenile and taking steps in repairing the family the juvenile justice system has been quick to punish the juvenile. The lacking of effective counseling services for juvenile delinquents before and after being detained or incarcerated has been considered a large part of the overall problem in the juvenile justice system as well as a very low success rate in making positive changes in the life of the juvenile offender.

The research will seek to understand the extent of the failures of the juvenile justice system by presenting statistical research and real world examples of these failures. The better juvenile justice professionals understand the failure of the system the more effective they can be in developing more effective measures for ensuring the juvenile learns new and positive behavior and does not grow up to become an adult criminal offender. Through rehabilitative services and programs the juvenile will have an opportunity to make positive changes in their lives and become more productive members of society.

Literature Review

Research has shown that the juvenile justice system has failed in their goal to rehabilitate juveniles to ensure they do not grow up to become adult criminals. In research conducted by Annie Casey Foundation it was discovered that the juvenile justice system is ineffective, dangerous, and inadequate. Instead of investing in the future of juveniles the system is just focused on punishing the juvenile and removing them from society. Juveniles that are detained or that are adjudicated to the adult court system are not taught new positive behaviors that assist them in becoming upstanding members of society and instead they learn new criminal behaviors.

In Oklahoma, precisely the Creek County area of Oklahoma, which is likely one of the highest areas of juvenile offenders in the state there exists a definite problem of dealing with the issues of juvenile crime. Furthermore, the juvenile justice system has no real punitive measures that can be put in place to deal with juvenile offenders who should be removed from society. The lacking of effective counseling services for pre-incarceration level and post-incarceration level offenders has been considered a large part of the overall problem in the State of Oklahoma.

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In fact despite the proof that rehabilitative programs can work the state has failed to aggressively implement them and prefers instead to detain or incarcerate. The Juvenile Re-entry of Oklahoma County program is one such program that has been shown to be successful with only a 10% failure rate (Kelly, 2010). The program provides the juveniles with an opportunity to obtain their high school diploma or G.E.D and an opportunity to learn a new job skill. In a recent analysis of the program it was discovered that many of the participants not only obtain their education but go on to obtain their college degrees.

The state of Texas has one of the largest the juvenile justice populations in the country and juveniles are detained in a large majority of cases. The Texas juvenile justice system has large caseloads where juveniles in some cases will be detained for a year without ever going in front of a judge. The judges in the state are quick to detain the juvenile because the state has become limited in the resources available to rehabilitee the juvenile offender. In New York the juvenile justice system became so corrupt and the treatment of juveniles so inhumane the governor called for a complete overhaul and reform of the New York juvenile justice system (Louis, 2008). Juveniles were routinely restrained while in custody and left face first on the ground for hours. Juvenile justice officers were known for being cruel and aggressive. Since the reform efforts the juvenile receive discipline but is not subject to inhuman treatment.

Perhaps one of the alleged problems are the extremely restrictive laws which were passed as result of the 14th Amendment of the Bill of Rights. Whereas; juvenile offenders are to be handled in such a restrictive manner as it give the offenders the idea that there’s nothing the system can do to them, in such a case like Thompson V. Oklahoma, where the State of Oklahoma petitioned to charge the defendant as an adult for premeditate murder, or 1st degree murder, which was approved and Thompson was so tried and convicted, to be later overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court (487 U.S. 815, 1988).

The trend for the juvenile justice system to detain the juvenile over finding effective rehabilitative services is not the only challenge facing juvenile justice systems across the nation. After a two-and-a-half year investigation by the Civil Right Division it was discovered similar to the adult criminal justice system that the minority is treated more harshly than the non-minority. The research showed that law enforcement, which has discretion in what happens to the juvenile, is far more likely to detain the minority juvenile and release the non-minority juvenile into the custody of their parents or guardian.

The report also said black juveniles were treated more harshly than white teenagers in detention practices and transfers to criminal court to be tried as adults (Dries, 2012). As a result there is a major overrepresentation of minorities in both the juvenile and adult justice systems. All criminal offenders in the juvenile justice system should be guaranteed an equal and fair juvenile justice process but this is just not the case. While juveniles are afforded some due process rights, the juvenile justice system is not focused on equality or even justice. It is instead focused on punishing juveniles for their bad behavior.

When juveniles are placed within juvenile detention centers instead of sent being home with their parents and being required to attend rehabilitative programs and services that will assist them in changing their behavior and leading a more positive lifestyle. Research has shown that juveniles that are placed in juvenile detention centers are seven times more likely to grow up to become adult criminal offenders or to be tried as an adult while juveniles. Further, those who ended up being sentenced to juvenile prison were 37 times more likely to be arrested again as adults, compared with similarly misbehaved kids who were either not caught or not put into the system (Szalavitz, 2009). The failure to employ rehabilitative services has resulted in a growing juvenile justice population.


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