Juvenile Crime Issues in the Criminal Justice Essay

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Juvenile Crime Issues in the Criminal Justice System

Similar to the concept of childhood, the legal idea of the juvenile justice system or status is relatively new. In the United States, the juvenile court system was established approximately 200 years ago with the first juvenile court instituted in 1899. Before the inception of the first juvenile court, children and the youth were regarded as small adults and were therefore prosecuted and punished as adults. Since the establishment of the first juvenile court, juveniles have largely been treated differently from adults though they are sometimes treated similarly in the criminal justice system. Consequently, there are several juvenile crime issues that have emerged in the criminal justice system as juvenile offenses have increased and the divergent treatment of juvenile offenders.

The Development of Juvenile Justice System:

Unlike the previous years, juvenile crimes and offenders are usually addressed in the juvenile justice system despite of the fact that some of them are treated in the adult criminal justice system. The juvenile court and justice system was established in the United States in 1899 when the first juvenile court was created in Illinois. The development of the juvenile justice system was largely fueled by the events of the progressive era between 1880 and 1920. During this period, social circumstances were mainly characterized by huge waves of immigration and the rapid increase of urbanization. Consequently, these characteristics contributed to several children wandering in the streets and many of them becoming engaged in criminal activities ("Development of the Juvenile Justice System," n.d.).

In the initial stages, most of these children were prosecuted and imprisoned with adult criminals upon conviction of the offenses. However, it was soon realized that these children were learning adult criminal behaviors and were leaving the facilities as individuals who were prepared for life-long careers in criminality. Due to the negative impact of the institutions, distinct juvenile court systems and correctional facilities were developed. Most of the early juvenile facilities and systems focused on teaching criminals life and trade skills. Nonetheless, other juvenile institutions focused on youth re-education, indefinite sentencing, and religious training. Since these early stages, the development and growth of the juvenile justice system can be attributed to several pivotal cases and juvenile crime issues that have emerged throughout its entire history.

Juvenile Crime:

Juvenile criminal activity has emerged as one of the crucial problems for the country as the federal, state, and local government officials as well as the general public are hugely concerned. The concerns regarding juvenile crime have increased dramatically because of the rapid increase in juvenile violence since the early 1990s. The concerns have not been alleviated and have continued to increase despite of the decrease in the juvenile crime rates since mid-1990s. The reason for the ongoing decline in the rate of juvenile crime emanate from the fact that many states started to adopt strict legislative policies. However, during the period when juvenile crime rates were declining significantly, federal reformers encouraged prevention and punitive measures and practices ("Introduction," 2001).

As juvenile violence has increased significantly in the recent past, the major response has been the adoption of laws that have continued to distort the difference between juvenile courts and adult correctional institutions. Nonetheless, most of the states have continued to fortify the laws regarding juvenile crime, made increased punitive sentencing, and extended the permitted transfer of juveniles to criminal or adult courts. In certain cases, some of these state governments have eliminated the confidentiality protections of juvenile courts.

Differences between Juvenile Courts and Adult Courts:

Since there is a clear distinction between the juvenile justice system and the adult criminal justice system, there are differences between a juvenile court and an adult court. Some of the major differences between a juvenile court and an adult court include:


One of the main distinctions between these courts is the terminology that is used in the proceedings within the institutions. While the terminology in an adult court basically refers to crime, the terminology in the juvenile court describes the situation as delinquency. Therefore, unlike in adult courts, offenders in the juvenile courts are not prosecuted for committing crimes but rather for acts of delinquency.

Use of Jury and Judges:

The other difference between the two courts is that a juvenile case is usually determined by a judge who decides on whether the minor has violated the law and his/her punishment. In contrast, an adult court may include the use of a jury to determine a case (Komisaruk, 2007).

Use of Bail:

The other notable difference between a juvenile court and an adult court is that bail is not permitted for juveniles or in the juvenile court while it's used in the adult court. Consequently, for a juvenile to get out of custody before arbitration, he/she must prove that he/she is neither a flight risk nor a danger to the society.

Understanding Juvenile Crime:

The entrance of juvenile or young criminals into the juvenile justice system is normally through the law enforcement agencies and personnel. The nature of the juvenile's original engagement with the justice system is usually determined by the police officer after the young offender is apprehended for the first time for breach of the law. In most cases, law enforcement agencies normally track the characteristics and volume of offenses that are reported to them. However, the law enforcement data tends to be inadequate in the complete evaluation of delinquency problem in the community because some offenses are never reported and remain unresolved. Notably, the law enforcement agencies also provide reports of arrest or apprehension statistics that can be used to evaluate the flow of young criminals into the juvenile justice system.

The involvement of minors in criminal activities is understood differently across various facets of the society. These acts result in juvenile delinquency with delinquency being a term in the legal field that is used to describe criminal behavior conducted by young offenders due to growing problematic behaviors. The differences in the definitions of the term delinquency is divergent across various groups in the society since there is a parental view, educational view, mental health view, and legal system view. However, delinquency can generally be described as criminal behaviors that are conducted by young offenders because of growing problematic or deviant behavior. Delinquent behavior is mainly classified into two categories in the juvenile justice system i.e. status offenses and delinquency offenses. Status offenses are basically considered as acts that couldn't be regarded as offenses if carried out by an adult. Some of the major examples of these offenses include curfew violations, skipping school or truancy, and alcohol possession.

The recent concerns and increase of the rate of juvenile crimes can be attributed to several variables that act as factors contributing to juvenile crime. The main factors that correlate with juvenile crime rates include family background, socio-economic class, educational and experiences (Martin, 2005). Family background is a critical factor since its one of the most important influences on juvenile development. This is a crucial variable or factor because the values, beliefs, norms, behavioral modes, and imprints on a juvenile emanate from his/her family unit. In contrast, socio-economic class is also a vital factor since children from working and poor class backgrounds are regarded as people born into dangerous classes and likely to engage in juvenile offenses or delinquent acts. Educational experiences are crucial for the juvenile's engagement in criminal activities because they shape the dignity of the youth.

Reduction of Juvenile Crime:

Since juvenile crime has developed to become a serious problem in the country and the entire criminal justice system, there is need to adopt measures, policies, and practices that are geared towards lessening the occurrences of these offenses. There are various types of programs that have been developed and implemented to tackle the rate of…

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