America's Juvenile Justice System

analytical Essay
3741 words
3741 words

The Juvenile Justice system, since its conception over a century ago, has been one at conflict with itself. Originally conceived as a fatherly entity intervening into the lives of the troubled urban youths, it has since been transformed into a rigid and adversarial arena restrained by the demands of personal liberty and due process. The nature of a juvenile's experience within the juvenile justice system has come almost full circle from being treated as an adult, then as an unaccountable child, now almost as an adult once more. Studies and anecdotes have shown that our modern approach, however, is ill-equipped to reduce crime or deal with chronic delinquents while at the same time protecting their due liberties. We now stand on the precipice of decision: How can we strike an appropriate balance in the juvenile justice system? Should we even retain a separate system for children at all? The answers are usually difficult, sometimes subtle, but always possible to attain. This paper will analyze the different theoretical issues pertaining to the modern juvenile court, determine their origin, and suggest a course of action for resolving these issues to the best extent possible. It is important to note, however, that the juvenile justice system alone cannot ever prevent all juvenile crime, respond perfectly to every situation or treat every suspect fairly. Furthermore, an effective antidote to modern juvenile crime would necessitate far broader action, addressing underlying social structure inequalities that breed poverty and social disorganization. The Creation of Childhood and Its Court Prior to modern times, Colonial American children were perceived to be small adults, more or less able to interact with grown-ups and ... ... middle of paper ... ... presence of a competent lawyer, that is an issue for the Supreme Court). Judicial waivers would become obsolete. The offenders left in the juvenile system (under age 16) would hardly present anymore than a handful of cases that might raise questions of fitness. If only 1% of older offenders under today?s system are waived, this problem will be mitigated. It may seem harsh to draw the line at 16 without compromise, but we, as Feld points out, do this with many other societal privileges and duties. The draft age is precisely 18, the driving age in most states is precisely 16 and so forth. Is a person more fit to be drunk a week before their 21st birthday than a week after? Drawing one line is the only way to avoid the problems associated with waiver laws that either provide too much discretion that lends itself to discrimination and to provide consistency.

In this essay, the author

  • Explains that the juvenile justice system, since its conception over a century ago, has been one at conflict with itself.
  • Opines that our modern approach is ill-equipped to reduce crime or deal with chronic delinquents while at the same time protecting their due liberties.
  • Analyzes the different theoretical issues pertaining to the modern juvenile court, determines their origin, and suggests a course of action for resolving these issues.
  • Explains that colonial american children were perceived to be small adults, able to interact with grown-ups and participate in mature society. they were placed in the homes of others or, as technology enabled the industrial revolution, in factories and other locations of modern industry.
  • Analyzes how the 'child saving' movement worked to segregate children from society both directly and indirectly based on middle class, protestant, white, rural idealists who viewed childhood as a stage of moral immaturity and impressionability.
  • Analyzes how the progressives formed the first juvenile court in chicago in 1899, creating a formal age-based distinction between juvenile and adult offenders and their institutional separation.
  • Explains that the progressives' concept, known as parens patriae, gave the court broad authority to substitute its own control over children for that of the natural parents when the latter appeared unable or unwilling to meet their responsibilities.
  • Explains that hearings were closed and juvenile records were sealed. euphemisms are used for every step of the process, such as juvenile offenders being referred to as 'delinquents'
  • Explains that early juvenile court, by its very nature, was a highly informal system of paternal justice. due process was unnecessary because the interests of the child and the judge were seen as mutual.
  • Explains that a lack of due process made some punishments wildly inappropriate. in re gault, the supreme court mandated that all juveniles have the right to most forms
  • Analyzes how gault, along with a series of related decisions, formed the warren court revolution that afforded numerous protections and forms of due process to juveniles.
  • Analyzes humes' book on the need for an adversarial system. both the defense and the prosecution are obliged to take extreme positions.
  • Analyzes how judge dorn is presented with a kid who hit the school bully over the head for tormenting him repeatedly. the child's public defender refuses to let him plead guilty.
  • Analyzes how the situation is exacerbated when lawyers are lazy or incompetent or the juvenile decides to waive counsel altogether — something that is possible even without parental consent.
  • Explains that in mckeiver v. pennsylvania, the rehabilitative nature of courts allowed this portion of a juvenile's due process to be waived because children were not subject to punishment for their offenses but rather treatment.
  • Analyzes how judges, as feld demonstrates, are more likely to find suspects guilty, whereas substantive criminal guilt represents a complex social assessment of moral culpability and legal guilt.
  • Explains that two short years after the creation of the first juvenile court, its jurisdiction was expanded to include youth who were?incorrigible? or growing up in 'idleness.
  • Argues that allowing for status offense statutes creates numerous problems, including inconsistencies and discrimination.
  • Explains that three post-gault reforms changed status offenses in america during the 1970?s. diversion conserved valuable resources and skirted the due process problem by allowing nuisance cases to be handled informally through alternative means.
  • Analyzes how judge dorn terrorizes the public defender's office by opening his court to parents of status offender youth. he calls these meetings the juvenile system?s best chance to help families.
  • Analyzes how the court operated on a pretense of rehabilitation that rationalized its lack of due process in the gault decision.
  • Explains that many states have changed their juvenile codes' statement of legislative purpose from suggestions of rehabilitation to those of accountability and punishment. this overt change stems from a complex?get tough? social movement that has been at work since the 1980s.
  • Explains that in order to mollify public fears of older, dangerous juveniles, policy makers brought retributive, adult punishment into the purview of the juvenile court. mandatory sentencing laws are one such manifestation.
  • Opines that stricter sentencing guidelines lead to racial and class-based discrimination. rehabilitation is difficult without considering the structural condition of a juvenile's situation.
  • Explains that juvenile justice waiver laws were changed to decrease judges' discretion and pull more youth into the adult criminal system based on retribution and tough sentencing.
  • Analyzes humes' case of john sloan before judge dorn, where a good middle-class kid with no prior criminal record is caught in an inept attempt to rob the man at gunpoint
  • Analyzes how george trevino, abandoned at age six by his parents, commits crime after crime without serious punishment until he is caught in a botched home robbery attempt where the only person hurt is an accomplice.
  • Argues that stopping juvenile crime early through preventative programming is important when reforming the juvenile justice system.
  • Proposes that individual communities develop concise statutes to identify chronic truancy or curfew violators as?at-risk? youth.
  • Opines that if a judge determines youth to be at-risk, he could place them into programs similar to the children at risk program to encourage school attendance, provide familial crisis relief and other services.
  • Argues that the approach based on objective measurements related to the risk youth pose to a community would pass the strict scrutiny found in other areas such as curfew regulations.
  • Analyzes hirschi and gottfredson's ridiculous assertion that if people can be excused from the penalties of the law because they have low self-control, we would be forced by the same logic to excuse adult offenders.
  • Suggests that the focus should shift from rehabilitation and preventative programming to deterrence and retribution after growing up as a chronic offender.
  • Analyzes dawson's argument that a wholesale merger of the adult and juvenile systems would result in net decrease in the resources now devoted to the two systems combined.
  • Opines that removing older youth from the system would further concentrate our thin resources and focus them on those who may still be malleable to reformation.
  • Argues that if only 1% of older offenders are waived, this problem will be mitigated.
  • Argues that drawing one line is the only way to avoid the problems associated with waiver laws that provide too much discretion that lends itself to discrimination and to provide consistency.
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