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Juvenile Courts

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Indeed, the juvenile court system  had been applied across all States in the United States until in 1960’s when a dramatic rise in the number of juvenile arrests made this system of justice administration lose support among the general public (Garberg & Libkuman, 2009). Juvenile justice system was put in place due to a feeling by the American judicial system to address youth justice, as there was a need to shift focus from a rehabilitation aspect of justice administration to a tougher system of justice philosophy. In terms of law enforcement across the United States, the juvenile justice system implied that in every criminal act, the punishment would from then henceforth fit the crime.

Over time the approach has changed as the youths are taken from the juvenile court for trials in the adult court of law. Today, rules that had previously guarded juveniles against trials in criminal courts have been made less and less restrictive leaving the juveniles at the mercy of the prosecutor. This radical change in the American Justice landscape has left the authority of hearing juvenile cases at the discretion of the respective prosecutor unlike in the past where such a responsibility lay with the jury. In addition, the minimum age of transfer of these juveniles was reduced significantly –varying among the states. These tougher measures were informed by a significant crime wave among the juveniles in 1994 (Garberg & Libkuman, 2009).

Disadvantages of having juveniles in adult courts

A critical examination of the juvenile crime trends does not provide ground for the highly held view that the contemporary American youth is more prone to crime as compared to the past. However, recent legislations have continued to underline tougher and tougher juvenile punishments rather than seeking a restrictive or rehabilitative approach (Young & Jenni, 2004). According to this perspective, one can only argue against the impact of the current juvenile justice system, this is because there is no existing literature that portrays this justice administration approach in a positive way.

The first thing that happens to youths who are taken to custody is the dispossession of their individual liberty, which is a constitutional right. It should therefore, be remembered that even when these youths are in the custody of any state, they have both the federal and the state constitutional and statutory rights irrespective of their gender or sexual orientation. This very fundamental universal human right is abused when these young people are headed to custody. Without doubt, the abuse affects gays, lesbians and bisexuals, whose rights as youths are violated continuously during their stay in custody.

Certainly, this can be seen in the this case whereby–Administration  for Children's Services of the New York City prevented a transgender woman from wearing her female clothes because she had been placed in a group of boys (McCord, Crowell, & Spatz, 2008). In addition, as far as she was under the care of New York State, she was prohibited from revealing her feminine identity. This treatment disregarded the fact that this young woman had been confirmed to be suffering from gender identity disorder. This is of particular importance because it enables one with that condition early in life to experiment and develop both aspects of the gender.  In addition to treatment causing her psychological disorder, it is quite apparent that this teenager was discriminated on the grounds her sex and disability (Estrada & Marksamer, 2006).

The argument that the United States juvenile justice has turned into a platform for depriving youngsters of their constitutional liberties is strongly supported by the above illustration (Estrada & Marksamer, 2006). The construction of juvenile courts was through an informed notion that young offenders would benefit from an informal approach in their proceedings. In reality, the exact opposite has been achieved as the due process rights of these teenage offenders gets overlooked making these informal approach of justice delivery a great disadvantage to the youth (Freeman, 2011).

Further, it has also been argued that the juvenile courts are lacking in capacity as concerns solving of the problems associated with the convicts. While they have an obligation to regulate and reform these particular offenders, they lack both the required knowledge and the necessary resources to meet this obligation. In their operation, therefore, these courts have always opted for quick fixes with regards to important contemporary society issue rather than seeking long lasting solutions. Indeed, another prevalent approach of solving the problem of juveniles is imprisonment, which is also devastating when offered by the courts (Freeman, 2011). 

Comparison between the Juvenile System and the Criminal Court System

Many schools of thought exist as to whether juveniles’ courts should be done away with or not. Individuals who concur with the former justify their argument by insisting on the prominence of punishing young offenders while at the same time trying to protect their rights (Schaslin, 2008).  This school of thought asserts that the existence of juvenile courts serve to shield law-breaking youths from assuming the responsibilities of their actions. In their view, these same courts have failed to caution young people against the use of violence. This school of thought furthers its argument insisting that -- by punishing juvenile offenders it will serve as an example to the upcoming generation and as they can finally turn away from crime. Even though, the argument continues, a juvenile trial in an adult court will still afford the individual comprehensive constitutional rights (Schaslin, 2008).

The other school of thought asserts that these forms of courts should be left to stay. In support of this argument, they insisted that the accountability of juveniles should not be allowed to match that of the adults in view of the fact that they are still immature in numerous aspects compared to an adult. Moreover, teenagers who are held in juvenile courts are there to be treated and not to be deterred from their anti-social behaviors (Elrod & Ryder, 2011). As such, even if a youngster does not refrain from their previous character, after serving their jail term, the court itself would have fulfilled its purpose.  This argument that supports upholding of juvenile courts maintain that it is more effective to curb violence among the youth through changing their social environment compared to punishing them in adult courts. While this approach insist that juveniles are denied full constitutional rights, they still uphold that the court exist to serve the best interest of the children (Corriero, 2006).

The question of whether to have a juvenile court system in place or not, however, has diverted the attention of the major stakeholders from one important question--how juvenile delinquency should be reduced (McCord, Crowell, & Spatz, 2008). This is underlined by the fact that both the juvenile courts and the adults’ criminal courts have confirmed to be incapable in solving this societal problem. Research has also established that juvenile offenders have a family history characterized by weak bonding and poor or total lack of supervision in childhood. In addition, the nature of immediate childhood neighbors is also a contributing factor. Societal tenets like gangsters, illegitimate drug dealings and negative role models have also been identified as possible triggers of juvenile delinquency (Corriero, 2006).

Without doubt, reducing juvenile delinquency is the most imperative aspect surrounding this issue even as other options could still be weighed. In this regard, the shifting of blame between juvenile courts and adult criminal courts should be avoided and focus instead turned to solving the real problem. This would require the coming together of various stakeholders from professionals like councilors, policemen and other government and civil service organs to arrest this problem before it gets to a level it can no longer be contained (Elrod & Ryder, 2011).

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