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This is a memorandum to a legislator concerning the treatment of juveniles by the criminal justice system. The ideas contained in this memorandum are based on the notion that there should be a different criminal justice system that serves adults and juveniles. On this note, this memorandum assumes that juveniles should not undergo the vigorous trials that adults pass through, during the process of administration of justice. This is because most of these children commit crimes that are not serious, such as truancy, violation of curfews, and running away from authorities. On this basis, it will be unfair for these kinds of people to pass through a trial system that will examine their characters, leading to psychological and emotional torture.
This memorandum addresses the kind of treatments that juveniles might face when they pass through their established justice system. It also analyzes how it is different in comparison to an adult's criminal justice system. This memorandum identifies the reasons of these treatments, and whether they are justifiable. This memorandum also addresses how the juvenile criminal justice system might affect the kind of penalties that culprits get. Finally, this memorandum identifies a piece of legislation that has the capability of eliminating the juvenile courts in my state. It explains how this legislation might affect the process of administration of justice.
The matter of a separate criminal justice system of adults and juveniles is a contentious issue in the United States of America. The debate began in the 19th century with the establishment of the first juvenile court in Chicago. This is after the enactment of the Juvenile court act of 1899 by the State of Illinois. The role of this court was to rehabilitate delinquent, dependent and neglected children. In this act, the state had to provide a different detention center for adults, and juveniles. This act also prevented the State from detaining children under the age of 12 years (Corrado and Rebecca, 51).
The act did not allow for the records of the juvenile justice system to be public, and this was aimed at protecting these children from stigma. By 1925, the juvenile justice system was entrenched into the American justice system, with virtually all the states of the nation practicing the system. The States that did not practice the system by then were Wyoming and Maine. The main reasons for establishing the juvenile criminal justice system was rehabilitative. The aim of the state was to rehabilitate these children, as opposed to punishing them for their crimes (Champion and Alida, 66).
This is the reasons as to why their punishments were lenient, and the process of the administration of justice under this system was different from that contained in the adult's criminal justice system. However, opposition against these types of justice system began as early as 1910. Critics argued that the punishments were too lenient to children, and could not deter them from committing crimes. They also argued that during the process of administration of justice, law enforcement officers did not follow the law (Cripe and Michael, 41).
For instance, in Kent vs. United States (1966), the court gave a ruling that by denying the attorney of Morris Kent access to social information that a juvenile court used to transfer his case to an adult court, his rights of a due process of law was breached (Haugen, 19). There are numerous attempts to restructure the juvenile justice system, for purpose of making it effective in rehabilitating children.
For instance, the Governor of Louisiana, Bobby Jindal announced a series of legislations whose main aim is to reform the juvenile justice system (Champion and Alida, 26). According to Bobby Jindal, two bills will overhaul the juvenile justice system, and allow non-violent drug addicts to be on probation. While the third bill aims at expanding the drug rehabilitation program which is under the support of the state of Louisiana. The state has not yet published these bills.
Just as discussed in the summary above, juveniles are given a lighter punishment as opposed to adults who commit the same kind of crime. This is because the aim of the juvenile justice system is to reform and rehabilitate children into becoming responsible members of the society. It is important to denote the language used while prosecuting juveniles under their justice system. Mostly prosecutors use the term delinquency, as oppose to crime.
Delinquency refers to misbehavior. On the other hand, the term crime refers to a behavior that is unacceptable and illegal in accordance to the norms established by the government, and the society. A criminal act therefore, must be punished in accordance to the laws set up by the state and the government. During the process of trial, the family and academic background of the juvenile is always under intense scrutiny (Corrado and Rebecca, 51).
However, this is not always the case in circumstances that involve the trial of an adult in a criminal case. In an adult court, the trial is always vigorous, with prosecutors analyzing the criminal history of the suspect, his intentions of committing the crime, and the mental capability of the individual at the moment of committing a crime. The aim of this analysis is to determine the kind of punishment the suspect should receive if he or she is found guilty of committing the crime. In the juvenile justice system, the purposes of analyzing the academic records and the family background of the individual are to determine the nature of rehabilitative services that the individual juvenile should receive (Corrado and Rebecca, 32).
This is because the main purpose of the system is rehabilitative, and this function determines the penalty a child should receive, for delinquent behavior. Another major difference is that under a juvenile court, juveniles are not arrested, but taken under custody. This is not the case with an adult's criminal justice system. This is because an adult is arrested, and put in a prison cell awaiting his or her trial. The main purpose of this is to protect a juvenile against emotional and psychological torture that emanate from the negative experiences of an arrest (Loeber, 33). Another procedure that aims at protecting juveniles from stigma is the decision by the courts to keep the trials confidential and private.
This is as opposed to the trial of an adult which is public. The basis of this decision is that an adult has the ability to cope with the stigma that arises from the trials, while a child cannot cope with the stigma. In my own opinion, the reasons as to why children should have a separate justice system are justifiable. This is because a juvenile still passes through the developmental stages, and they are therefore in capable of effectively defending themselves in a trial that is designed to judge an adult (Loeber, 41).
However, there are other people who are against the use of a separate justice system for juveniles and adults. According to these critics, the juvenile justice system cannot adequately rehabilitate these children. They argue that children should undergo the same trials that an adult passes through. A bill that proposes to overhaul the entire justice system in Georgia is the HB 242 bill sponsored by Wendell Willard (Haugen, 61).
This bill proposes an out of court rehabilitative program for juveniles, and the most dangerous juveniles should be tried by an adult's court, but detained in a juvenile center. In my own opinion, allowing children to undergo the vigor's of an adults trial is a mockery of justice, and unfair to the children under consideration. On this basis, the legislator should not support the bill.
In conclusion, the juvenile justice system should not be scrapped. This is because it plays an important role in the rehabilitation of children, transforming them to responsible citizens of the country. Children do not have the emotional and psychological capability of undergoing a trial designed for an adult. For instance, if these children are found innocent of the allege crime, how will they cope with the stigma that comes from the trials. The recommendation that I will make regarding this situation is for the state and federal government to sponsor a bill in the legislature that will give the courts more supervisory powers in relation to the rehabilitation of the children sentenced by them.