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A juvenile is any person in his or her adolescence or according to the law, a person who is in the age of seventeen and below. At this stage in life, they undergo transition and tend to keep on exploring with the aim of making discoveries about anything. In the process, they find themselves on the bad side of the law or in conflict with their community. It is also at this stage when communication breakdown between the juveniles and the adults begin. This is partly because they think that no one understands them or they simply want everything to be done according to their way and style. The juveniles are not solely to blame for their offences though. The community and the surrounding in which these young people are brought up are also equally responsible and liable to the blame for the offences committed. The young people are known to be easily and emotionally carried away or influenced by what they see or hear. The role of parents in shaping their children's behavior is therefore of prime importance since they cannot let the children to learn on their own. Most offences committed by juveniles are minor and the punishment is not very severe. When juveniles commit crimes like arson, theft, robbery or other forms of offences that would be considered as crime in an adult court, the offender is referred to as a juvenile delinquent. The definition of juvenile offences is not standardized but varies from state to state although they share the same fundamental premises. It is worth noting that some offences can be considered as offences in a particular community whereas the same actions are well within the culture and the acceptable values in another. Thus definition of the offence may depend on one's moral values and conscience.
Jackson's offence is a gang related crime as it involves actions with violence. It calls for severe action being taken against the offender irrespective of the age but being a juvenile, the punishment meted on Jack can only be aimed at correcting or rehabilitating the youngster other than sentencing him to a punishment that would have been applied to an adult who committed the same crime. Jack being not a first time offender can be seen to be developing into a habitual criminal unless concerted efforts are applied to save him from this kind of lifestyle. It is disturbing to see a crime of such magnitude being committed by a minor and also taking into account that he has previously been on the bad side of the law. The action which was taken on Jack when he committed the first offence was primarily aimed at discouraging him from repeating the crime or engaging in illegal acts in the future. Some offenders though repeat the crimes and hence end up being dreadful criminals or law breakers.
Juveniles who commit crimes that are considered to be petty for the first time are normally subjected to informal probation under the custody of their parents and put on a family counseling program. The idea behind this is because rehabilitation is normally preferred to punishment when it comes to correcting juvenile offenders. For a juvenile committing the crime for a second time or who commits a crime during the time of probation or thereafter are subjected to formal probation where they must account for all their actions. The formal probation can be house arrest where check in is normally done by probation officers (Milliken, S. 2007). However, for serious crimes, like in Jackson's case, the offender is taken to a juvenile hall or to a correctional camp as they wait for a hearing date of their case.
The Juvenile Justice System
Juveniles are not tried in the same judicial system as the adults. The juvenile's court acknowledges that the children might not be in the understanding that their actions were wrong hence criminal responsibility to them may not be applied. The court also acknowledges that the offenders might have committed the crimes while under influence from external forces. The system also operates under the assumptions that other than punishing the offenders, rehabilitation is more effective in shaping the future of the juveniles and also to discourage them from getting involved in future illegal acts. For most states, the upper limit that considers the offender to be a juvenile is mostly seventeen years.
Structure of a Juvenile Justice System
The system's first stage is an encounter with a law enforcement officer. The severity of the crime is evaluated and if found not to be serious, the offender may be warned by the officer or charge his parents with his custody. The officer may also hold the juvenile in a detention center where he or she awaits a trial. The juveniles to be detained are first evaluated by a psychiatrist or a psychologist although evaluation can also be done later when ordered by the judge once the juvenile is taken o court. This stage depends with the state where the crime was committed. From the juvenile hall, the offender is then arraigned in court where they can be found delinquent or not delinquent. Those that are found to be delinquent are either sentenced or placed under probation. The probation is supervised to monitor the juvenile's behavior and also to make him or her accountable for his or her life. On completion of the sentence, the juveniles are then released. There may be conditions on the release where the judge orders that the juveniles are to be supervised or no conditions (ClaraH, 2010). Detention to Jack in the juvenile hall is only for a short period as he awaits his hearing dates. Detention is also done if it is feared that the juvenile may not return to court, if the offender has a criminal record or poses any threat to other people. If the detention for jack is to be paid for, then his parents will be forced to pay. The juvenile hall is a safe place where the offenders are held thus isolating them from the rest of the society. It is thought that when the juveniles are separated from the adult offenders, the influence of turning into hardened criminals is significantly reduced. This is achieved by concentrating on a rehabilitation program which turns their mind from crimes.
Evidentiary hearing follows after the hearing dates are set. This stage is for gathering enough proof that the crime was really committed and involves several processes. When Jackson is arraigned in court for the first time a first hearing is made where the charges being pressed against him will be read to him in the presence of his parents. At the first hearing also, Jackson will be informed of his rights by the judge. At this point the judge makes a direction as to how Jackson is to be treated and under what circumstances will he be kept until the following hearing. During the second hearing which is known as Evidentiary Hearing, the judge is meant to take evidence from all the witnesses because Jack being a juvenile is not entitled to the right to a jury. One of the rights that jack has is to keep quiet and wait for his verdict because any word that he utters can be used against him in the case. After listening to all the testimonies from the parties involved, the judge then makes a decision as to whether the offences charged could have happened.
Before Jack will be sentenced, the probation officer will have to interview him and his family and then make a report. The information gathered in the report is for the purpose of advising the judge and to help him in making his dispositions. It is also good to note that the judge may direct the juvenile to be evaluated in case he suspected that the juvenile may have acted being under influence of certain substances or not being in his right state of mind. These evaluations and reports are considered during the hearing and at this point, Jackson and his parents will be forced to pay for the losses suffered by the victim
The disposition of Jackson's case then follows. In most cases, probation is often applied where a responsible adult is charged with the custody of the juvenile. In many occasions, the custody is charged with the parents who are also charged with specific conditions failure to which a fine is imposed on them. However, the judge may also apply the other form of disposition if he deems that the juvenile's behavior is intolerable to the society thus justifying the custody of the juvenile to be placed under Juvenile Corrections Department. It is highly unlikely that Jack will be placed under probation owing to the fact that he is a second time offender who is still on probation for the first crime. The judge is therefore most likely to apply the other option which is placing Jack in the department. In the department, Jack may be put under foster care, a hospital, a group home or in a secure confined area. The payment for the treatment of the juvenile while under the custody of the state is to be paid by the parents of the juvenile. Jackson's fear of the judge not being lenient to him can be understood especially because he put the life of the driver in danger while robbing him of his car. He fears that the judge may apply the last option if after making an evaluation; he feels that Jackson may not respond to the juvenile justice system due to the magnitude of the crime and Jackson's past criminal record. In such an event, Jackson will be subjected to an adult court where he may receive the same sentence available in the court his age notwithstanding. For a juvenile to be tried in an adult court, a proof is first given by the prosecutor that the juvenile is to be treated as an adult. In some states, some offences committed by a juvenile are automatically tried in an adult court (Third Judicial District Court, n.d.). If Jackson's case is to be transferred into an adult court, he will be treated as a first time offender and is therefore likely to receive a lighter punishment but can also be as harsh as life imprisonment or capital. However, the juvenile can appeal against the ruling made in an adult court (Juvenile Justice, 2010).