Juvenile and Adult Courts: A Comparative Analysis:
The United States government is based on a checks and balances type system. The three main parts of this system are the executive branch, the legislative branch, and the judicial branch. This judicial system’s job is to uphold the law of the land. Law can be defined as a set of rules or norms of conduct which mandate, proscribe or permit specified relationships among people and organizations, provide methods for ensuring the impartial treatment of such people, and provide punishments for those who do not follow the established rules of conduct (Wikipedia.org, 2005). This is a very wide and all encompassing definition of the law and the governing judicial system. Just like the United States government the judicial system is broken up into different checks, balances, and systems. Two of these main systems are the juvenile justices system and the adult justice system. The obvious difference between these two courts is that the juvenile system is designed to handle youth offenders and the adult system is designed to handle adult offenders. Both of these two systems despite their difference have the same end goal; to administer justice. In the pages to follow we will discuss the big picture of the juvenile justice system, go over a point by point comparison between the juvenile system and the adult system, touch on both the benefits and disadvantages to being tried as a minor in the juvenile court from the perspective of a minor, and review the societal implication of abolishing the juvenile court system.
Overview of Juvenile Justice System
The main component of the juvenile justice system is that it is designed to cater to minors who break the law. The legal information institute categorizes it as; juvenile justice is the area of criminal law applicable to persons not old enough to be held responsible for criminal acts. In most states, the age for criminal culpability is set at 18 years. Juvenile law is mainly governed by state law and most states have enacted a juvenile code. The main goal of the juvenile justice system is rehabilitation rather than punishment (LII, 2005). The juvenile justice system as we know it today is a relatively new concept in the big scheme of legal history. In fact prior to the 19th century in America, young people above the age of five were considered mature, and looked upon as miniature adults or property. Society had the notion of "infants" and "toddlers", but not any notion of childhood. When children got into trouble, and their family gave up hope, one of three punishments took place: (1) the apprenticeship system - where middle and upper class children were bound out to a skilled craftsman to be used as assistants; (2) the binding-out system - where poor children were bound out to any responsible adult to be used any way needed; and (3) church discipline - where church officials administered floggings, whippings, beatings, and brandings. These were considered the equivalent of punishments that a fully-grown adult would receive (Faculty.ncwc.edu, 2005). Throughout the early to mid 1800’s this trend of miniature adults continued to grow and youths became independent and adult like as they worked in factories during the industrial revolution. As this time period came to a close things started to change. In 1899, the Juvenile Court was invented in Chicago by passage of the Juvenile Court Act. This date and place is generally regarded as the birth of juvenile justice and the birth of the concept of juvenile delinquency. It’s creation gave birth to two new ideals; Parens patriae (the state as parent) - a legal philosophy and doctrine established in the case of Ex parte Crouse (1838) when a father challenged the Philadelphia House of Refuge's right to hold his daughter who had been committed there by the mother. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court stated that...