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Juvenile Violent Offenders in the Juvenile Justice System
The Juvenile Justice system deals with offenders differently than in the Adult Criminal Justice System. Sentencing, corrections, and the judicial system engage in certain processes when dealing with juvenile offenders. Juvenile incarceration has been a constant issue, especially when having young adults in adult prisons. Nevertheless, there are many concerns such as treatment and custody of juveniles and in adult facilities, the age of the juvenile, the crime they committed and if the juvenile will be safe while incarcerated. These are important factors when it pertains to a correctional officer and working with juveniles’ offenders in an adult facility.
The Sentencing of Juvenile Violent Offenders
Life sentences without parole for violent offenders found unconstitutional in Miller v Alabama, states that a mandatory sentence for a juvenile convicted of homicide violated the constitutional ban on the 8th amendment of cruel and unusual punishment. (Miller v. Alabama, 2012). Over the last three decades, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of juvenile offenders tried in adult criminal courts. (Sells, Sullivan, & Devore, 2012). One of the main causes of this issue is that courts have presumed that juveniles are less culpable than adults because of their immaturity (Greenwood & Turner, 2009). Nevertheless, adult criminals often begin their criminal careers as juveniles. The prevention of delinquency can stop the onset of adult criminal careers in the future (Greenwood & Turner, 2009). Thus, the cost of arresting, prosecuting, incarcerating, and treating offenders is very costly to states and taxpayers (Greenwood & Turner, 2009).
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According to the US Supreme Court, juveniles do not have the judgment of adults and should not be treated as adults when they commit offenses (Sells, Sullivan, & Devore, 2012). Criminal courts often sentence juveniles to adult court to stand trial and receive punishment. Nevertheless, leniency may be granted to juvenile due to their diminished capacities may receive shorter sentences for their transgressions and often judges who are elected for offices are often the ones determining a sentence. (Sells, Sullivan, & Devore, 2012).
Parole and Reentry
In addition, after the ruling of Miller v Alabama, the court noted that adolescent in the criminal justice system deserves enhanced protections and different considerations should have profound effects on juvenile’s treatment in the parole system. (Sells, Sullivan, & Devore, 2012). Nevertheless, the decades of focus on rehabilitation of juvenile’s offenders many face obstacles into re-entry in their communities without the coordinated social and public assistance (Harbeck, 2019). However, many efforts have been used to handle offenders and reduce the rates of recidivism. (Livers & Kehoe, 2012).
Many juvenile justice advocates have lobbied with Congress to pass federal models of interagency coordination of youth services. One of the primary goals of re-entry is for the juvenile to live a crime-free life with increased skills and a changed family to become a productive member of society (Carmichael, 2010).
Therefore, many offenders who have been released from juvenile correctional facilities have a high rate of recidivism and about 66 percent of juveniles re-offend in residential incarceration (Sells, Sullivan, & Devore, 2012). As a result, offenders are often rearrested within a few month or years after release (Sells, Sullivan, & Devore, 2012). Hence, one of the factors that impact re-entry is often the lack of family involvement before discharge and increased lengths of stay can increase rates of recidivism (Sells, Sullivan, & Devore, 2012).
Moreover, an earned option is often recommended if the youth and their family can justify that the offender has a positive change before an early discharge is even possible (Sells, Sullivan, & Devore, 2012). Furthermore, re-entry evaluations are necessary to advance in the field of reducing lengths of stay without a risk to public safety in a financially limited juvenile justice system (Sells, Sullivan, & Devore, 2012).
Corrections and Juvenile Offenders
Moreover, Adult offenders do not have access to boot camps programs such as juveniles. Furthermore, there is little difference between an adult criminal and a youthful offender and if the offender is found guilty of a criminal act the only recognized outcome is punishment (Bayer, Hjalmarsson, & Pozen, 2009).
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Boot camps are usually given to non-violent offenders who have never committed a crime. As a result, this program is not voluntary and is often assigned by the court to be completed in a short period of one to six months (Greenwood & Turner, 2009).
Thus, if an offender does not complete their sentence, they will have to be sent to an adult prison to complete the rest of their sentence. Adults do not have these options they are often sent to jail or prison depending on the crime committed. Unlike the adult system, the Juvenile Justice System often uses training houses (Carmichael, 2010), and other types of programs such as group treatment homes, day treatment programs, sex offender programs, and work programs (Bayer, Hjalmarsson, & Pozen, 2009).
Intensive Protective Supervision is a program that is often used for non-serious status offenders it is a program like is closely monitored by a counselor who interacts more with the youth and the family instead of a probation officer (Greenwood & Turner, 2009). The counselor makes frequent home trips, gives supports to parents, creates an individualized service plan and arranges for professional and therapy service (Greenwood & Turner, 2009). Thus, the difference among the juvenile system and the adult system is that the juvenile justice system purpose is to provide rehabilitation, not punishment (Harbeck, 2019.)
However, offenders who have committed violent crimes may often be placed on Community Based Intervention which requires the offender to have formal or informal probation, or youth serving on parole who are returning to the community after residential placement (Bayer, Hjalmarsson, & Pozen, 2009). Therefore, a juvenile offender can only be held in custody in a juvenile facility or on probation until the age of 21 (Harbeck, 2019).
Courts and Processing
The assignment of a judge sending a juvenile to jail, correctional facility, or program depends on the appropriate risk level for the young offender (Greenwood & Turner,2019). Depending on the finding of the court, if the offender committed a delinquent act (Carmichael, 2010), a probation officer must prepare a predisposition report and assessment and the former must have a classification of the risk level of the youth from minimum to maximum (Greenwood & Turner, 2019). Therefore, depending on the crime or offense committed by the offender the judge will determine where if the offender will be transferred to a high and maximum-security facility (Carmichael, 2010).
Nevertheless, judges in the state of Florida typically assign a juvenile to a facility in Florida by determining the appropriate risk level for the youth and the Department of Juvenile Justice assign the youth to a program (Bayer, Hjalmarsson, & Pozen, 2009). In addition. the state of Florida predisposition report must include a classification of the risk level to the youth and must include if the offenders are a risk to themselves or the public (Bayer, Hjalmarsson, & Pozen, 2009). For example, an individual who committed a first-degree felony, a sex offense, or a firearm offense are excluded from the minimum and low-risk categories. As a result, the probation officer’s recommendation and assessment of the youth and the judge who decides the final decision of the appropriate risk level (Bayer, Hjalmarsson, & Pozen, 2009).
Lastly, juvenile offenders can often receive harsh punishment due to the offenses that they have committed. In addition, many human rights groups often do not agree with adolescents to be detained in a prison setting with adults because it often affects their mental health. Therefore, if a juvenile commits a violent crime they should be treated and convicted as an adult and be held responsible and be accountable for the crime or offense committed. As a result, many cases of a juvenile who often life sentences have been found unconstitutional due to the age of the offender in question. In conclusion, many judges and juvenile justice can resort to different ways on how to determine a sentence for a violent juvenile offender without resorting to a harsh life sentence. As a correctional officer working with juvenile offenders it important that they receive proper training on how to deal with this special population of offenders.
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