The Juvenile Justice Policy Jason Austin The Juvenile Justice system in dealing with Juvenile offenders has cyclically gone from a rehabilitative approach to a punitive approach a number of times since its inception Meson & Howard, 1998). Research by Bernard (1992), as cited in Jensen and Howard (1998), examined the history of the Juvenile Justice system from 1820 and found that when Juvenile crime is determined to be high, the Justice system responds with severe punishments and few rehabilitative approaches.
This approach forces officials to either respond with harsh punishment or doing nothing at all. Eventually, the system is reformed and a greater amount of leniency takes effect. This continues until the final phase, as Juvenile crime continues, policies are enacted requiring severe punishment Meson & Howard, 1998). In 1899 at the same time as the creation of the Juvenile court, a separate legal process for Juveniles was created, “… Probation units emphasizing social casework, became integral components of a rehabilitative Juvenile Justice system… Which continued into the sass’s. In the sass’s the legal rights of Juveniles were increased ” o include due process considerations such as the right to counsel and protection against self-incrimination” Meson & Howard, 1998). Around this same period of time, demonstrativeness’s and decentralization were becoming considerations in exchange for a more rehabilitative model. The rehabilitative approach was “. Adopted by all states between 1970 and 1985. ” The model again began to change in 1985 with the increase of violence, drug use and distribution, and high gang activity.
Currently, the Juvenile Justice system is stressing punishment and control of Juveniles Meson & Howard, 1998). One question that needs to be addressed is that of why should Juveniles be treated any different than that of an adult committing a crime and what are the problems with these ideas? There are eight possible Justifications. One is that the crime committed by a Juvenile is less serious than one committed by an adult. Seriousness can be thought about “… In terms of harm or damage; another is to think about the implications of the act for the future behavior of the offender.
It is common to think of adult crimes as more serious than Juvenile delinquencies on both counts” Evidence points to the contrary and the seriousness of offenses does not increase with age (Hirsch & Cottonseeds, 1993). A second Justification is that adults are responsible for their acts, whereas juveniles are not. In other words, Juveniles “… Do not or cannot anticipate the consequences of their acts… ” This can also be referred to as low self-control and if low self-control is grounds to excuse the offender, than it would be logical to excuse many adults of their crime based on low self-control (Hirsch & Cottonseeds, 1993).
A third Justification is that Juveniles are more moldable than an adult is, respond better to treatment, and have a better chance of being rehabilitated. Evidence has been found to the contrary and furthermore, “… Adults have a declining crime rate Fourth Justification is there is a separate class of offenses, called status offenses, which are only offenses because of the age of the offender. One could argue in the reverse, that alcohol is frequently related to criminal acts, but is legal for adults to consume.
Another analogy to the Juvenile status offense of incorrigibility is the crime of resisting arrest by an adult (Hirsch & Cottonseeds, 1993). A fifth Justification is that the Juvenile Justice system is that allows for the sealing f records so as not systematizing the offender and Jeopardizing their future. This creates a host of problematic issues. An offender could continue engaging in crime and a Judge would not know of past offenses, thereby possibly returning the offender to the streets.
Also once a Juvenile reaches the age of majority, a clean slate is begun and is treated as a first time offender regardless of past offenses (Roth, 1997; Hirsch & Cottonseeds, 1993). A sixth Justification is that Juveniles are unable to care for themselves and that the state has the responsibility to care for them. There are many adults who are unable to care for themselves and the welfare interest would not affect the care of Juveniles if extended to these adults (Hirsch & Cottonseeds, 1993).
A seventh Justification is that by providing a separate system, Juveniles are provided separate facilities, away from the negative influences of adult offenders. Prisons have often been considered schools for crime, a fallacy (Roth, 1997; Hirsch’ & Cottonseeds, 1993). There is no evidence that the longer an offender serves increases the chance of recidivism. There is some evidence “… That Juvenile offenders are as irrupt as adults. ” The other argument of the physical danger posed to a Juvenile “. Is also usually misguided, because classification by security (or assault) risk is already widely practiced” (Hirsch & Cottonseeds, 1993).
The eighth Justification is the popular Justification of treatment versus punishment, as an excuse of leniency. This seems to become unpopular when the crime is one of a heinous nature. In this case frequently the public requests that adult standards should be applied (Hirsch & Cottonseeds, 1993). To summarize the present philosophies underlying the Juvenile Justice system we examine three pervasive arguments. The first is that Juveniles are not as responsible for their actions as adults are and therefore should not be held to the same standards.
With children, the environment in which they live is examined; the parents, neighborhood, and companions are looked at as being influential. As a result, the Juvenile system is more civil in nature, and the child is believed to have “. Engaged in delinquency, not criminality. ” The child receives a measure of protection, sealing or destroying of records when the matter is closed, prohibition of public Ewing of records, and maintain confidentiality of proceedings (Dawson, 1990). Second argument is the rehabilitation potential of Juveniles. Early in the Juvenile system, the belief took hold that with enough resources, “… Leniency could be cured. ” If the child could be sheltered from “… Destructive consequences (including legal ones) of his or her conduct until he or she has passed through the difficult years of adolescence, he or she may have a fighting chance of law-abiding adulthood. ” This belief took hold and attracted resources from public and private sources (Dawson, 1990). Criminal cases. Juveniles do not have the right too trial by Jury. The other legal rights are afforded them, the right to counsel, the “… Privilege against self- incrimination… The right to cross-examination and confrontation of witnesses, the right to have the charges known, and the right to having the charges proven beyond a reasonable doubt (Dawson, 1990). It appears that the present approach to the Juvenile Justice system is ineffective in dealing with Juvenile offenders. Two theories or solutions have been postulated to effectively deal with Juvenile offenders. Abolishment of the current separation of the venial system from the adult criminal Justice and merge the two systems (Hirsch’ & Cottonseeds, 1993; Dawson, 1990; Roth, 1997) or using a balanced approach (Bizarre & Washington, 1995).
There are numerous benefits to merging the Juvenile Justice system with the adult criminal Justice system. There would be an increase in savings and efficiency. In many Jurisdictions there is a duplication of staff and functions, “… From computer systems to personnel officers to auditors to receptionists;” courtroom space and personnel could be used more efficiently if the two were merged; as well as imbibing probation and parole officers. Savings could also be possible in detention and correctional facilities, for example by using a wing of an adult facility for Juvenile offenders (Dawson, 1990).
A merger of the systems would result in saving by eliminating transfer costs. Presently, if a Juvenile in the upper Juvenile age range comes in, the prosecutor has the option of trying the Juvenile as an adult. A petition for a motion to transfer must be filed, psychological and sociological studies conducted, and an adversarial hearing held before it can be presented too Juvenile Judge. If the two systems were to urge, then the need for a transfer mechanism would be abolished (Dawson, 1990). An offender who commits a crime the day before the age of majority may be treated, as a Juvenile if the transfer mechanism is not invoked.
A merger would eliminate the differential treatment; the tendency of officials to want “to set an example” of the almost adult Juvenile; and the difficulty of knowing the offender’s true age, which is often misrepresented in order to be handled in one system over the other (Hirsch’ & Cottonseeds, 1993; Dawson, 1990). Merging the two systems would have the benefit of “providing for continuity of arrives”. At present, Juvenile records are sealed so it is difficult to determine if the juvenile is headed toward serious problems.
Furthermore, the Juvenile, upon reaching the age of majority, has a clean slate, regardless of past record. But, even if the record were disclosed, there would be a tendency to discount the information in making a decision when viewing the individual as an adult (Roth, 1997; Dawson 1990). What the models or approaches have neglected up to this point is the importance of the victim and the community, accountability of the offender, and competency development. So far there has been the debate between punishment versus treatment as options, but both have negative side effects and essentially ignore everything else.
The need for retribution may be satisfied by punishment, but the offender can be negatively affected. Punishment can undermine self-restraint, delinquency, to name a couple, but it also encourages offenders to focus on themselves, not the victim and their responsibility (Bizarre & Washington, 1995). Treatment seems to focus solely on the offender, providing them with benefits and not asking for anything in return. Offenders generally do not hear that they have armed anyone, that action should be taken to “… Repair damages or make amends, and must receive consequences… As a result of the offense (Bizarre & Washington, 1995). The results of these considerations are a new approach called “The Balanced Approach” by Maloney, Oromo, and Armstrong, 1988, cited in Bizarre & Washington, 1995. This approach provides three goals directed toward three primary entities, the victim, the offender, and the community. The three goals “… Are: accountability, competency development, and community protection. ” A fourth goal can be added, hat of balance to address each of the three goals by policy and programs (Bizarre & Washington, 1995).
The primary goal of accountability would require the offender to “… Make amends for their crimes by repaying or restoring losses to victims and the community. ” The goal of “… Competency development, the rehabilitative goal for intervention, requires that youth who enter the Juvenile Justice system should exit the system more able to become productive and responsible in the community. ” The promotion of”. Promoting public safety and security at the lowest possible cost” is achieved by the hired goal of “community protection”.
The priority of retributive Justice was to punish “… Through an adversarial process, restorative Justice gives priority to repairing the damage or harm done to victims and the community through a process of victim involvement, community participation, mediation, and reparation. ” Traditionally, restorative Justice models were offender focused and program driven, but with the addition of balance, there is a general commitment to a “… Set of values, which in turn, prescribes goals and performance outcomes directed toward meeting the needs… F offender, victim, and community The priorities for practice underlying each of the goals in the balanced approach are: for accountability (or sanctioning) the practice of “restitution, community service, victim offender mediation, and victim awareness education”; for competency development (or rehabilitation), the practice of “work experience, cognitive and decision-making skills training, and service/learning”; and for community protection (or safety), the practice of “community-based surveillance and sanctioning systems, school and neighborhood prevention and capacity building efforts, and alternative spite resolution and mediation” (Bizarre & Washington, 1995).
To summarize the present philosophy of maintaining a separate Juvenile Justice system from that of the adult, we focus on three arguments: One that Juveniles are less responsible for their behavior, than adults; two, Juveniles have a greater potential for rehabilitation; and three, avoiding inappropriate legal rules (Dawson, If we attribute crime to low self-control then “… All that is required is to reduce the crime problem to manageable proportions is to teach people early in life that they their current behavior” (Hirsch’ & Cottonseeds, 1993). A possible approach would be a system of graduated sanctions, whereby the offenders are matched to appropriate punishments and treatments based on history and needs of the individual. This approach keeps in mind the founding philosophy of the Juvenile Justice system and can adequately address the present day offenders by balancing rehabilitation and punishment Meson & Howard, 1998).