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How to Best Manage Juvenile Offenders

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Juvenile crime and managing young offenders continue to be long contested issues. Professional opinions regarding treatment of said wrongdoers have swung between rehabilitation, punishment, and currently rehabilitation. Balancing public safety and the perpetrator’s mental and emotional development causes scrutiny and debate over laws and methods regarding treatment for the youth. Juvenile law focuses on rehabilitative services, when transfer to adult court is needed, and alternatives to incarceration. Understanding children’s mental and emotional development is crucial for developing an effective system of adjudicating and rehabilitating the offender.
DJS.state.md.us finds that, in the nineteenth century trying youths separately from their adult counterparts became an apparent necessity. Social reformer’s attempts noted that sentencing a child in adult (criminal) court could yield a worse fate for the child than if the court took an alternate tack. Prior to 1899, when the initial juvenile court was founded, a young delinquent was treated as an adult regardless of their untested decision-making abilities. “The primary difference between juvenile courts and adult courts was that the juvenile courts were ‘civil’ in nature while adult courts were ‘criminal’.” (djs.state.md.us) Rehabilitative procedures remained steady until the 1980s when juvenile crime made a violent upsurge, instigating public opinion to deviate from genteel practices. Legal professionals once again began prosecuting the delinquents as adults, thus sending them to criminal court, and potentially adult prison. “But Scott and Steinberg note that lawmakers and the public appear now to be rethinking their views once more. A justice system that operates on the ...

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...of honing their criminal skills, depression, sexual abuse, suicide, and higher recidivism rates (Law and Human Behavior Tried as an Adult, Housed as a Juvenile: A Tale of Youth From Two Courts Incarcerated Together Jordan Bechtold and Elizabeth Cauffman Online First Publication, August 5, 2013. doi: 10.1037/lhb0000048).
“Court officials must balance the interests of public safety with the needs of youth when making decisions about which program to place a juvenile offender and which level of restriction is required. Juvenile offenders who commit serious and/or violent crime may require confinement to protect public safety and intensive supervision and intervention to become rehabilitated. On the other hand, many offenders can be effectively rehabilitated through community-based supervision and intervention. (James Austin, Kelly Dedel Johnson, and Ronald Weitzer)”
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