Introduction to Criminal Justice –CRN 21737
December 12, 2012
Juvenile Jurisdiction v. Adult Jurisdiction
This paper explores the different views that have been in debate among society and the juvenile justice system. Since the inception of juvenile court more than a hundred years ago, the underlying debate has been that juvenile offenders shouldn’t go through the adult criminal courts. Juvenile court was originally created to handle minor offenders on the foundation of their youth rather than the crimes they commit, the focus being; to treat and guide the children as opposed to punishing them.
Recently there has been a dramatic change in the way juvenile crime is viewed by policymakers and the general public. This shift has led to widespread changes in policies and practices that concern the treatment of juvenile offenders. “The juvenile justice system in the United States has conventionally emphasized individualized treatment and rehabilitation; there has been a movement to redefine them as adults, thus transferring juvenile crimes to the adult court and criminal justice system” (Steinberg, 2009), as opposed to classifying offenses committed by youth as delinquent; “this focus has shifted over the years, however, and while juvenile courts are still directed at reform of young offenders, juvenile proceedings have become more punitive in nature” (Steward-Lindsey, 2006).
Over the last 100 years, American society has treated offenses committed by minors as mischievous acts that are less serious, it has dealt with juvenile offenses by treating them as delinquent acts to be adjudicated within a separate justice system, what we refer to today as the juvenile justice system. Theoretically the juvenile justice system is designed to recognize the special needs and immature status of young people and emphasize rehabilitation over punishment, juveniles have different competencies than adults and need to be adjudicated as such; they also have different potential for change than adults and therefore deserve a second chance through targeted rehabilitation.
Most people agree that there are a small number of juvenile offenders that should be transferred to the adult system because they pose a legitimate threat to the safety of other people and the harshness of their offenses warrant a more severe punishment, however, there are many juvenile offenders being prosecuted in the adult criminal justice system that do not belong there; these offenders have largely been charged with nonviolent crimes.
When the transfer of youth offenders to adult court becomes the rule rather than the exception, there becomes a fundamental challenge to the very premise that the juvenile court was founded on; “the fact that adolescents and adults are different” (Steinberg, 2009). “During the 1980s and 1990s, there was a public push for getting tough with juveniles and trying them as adults, as a result many states passed laws making it easier to try certain offenders as adults, while some states even considered the radical plan of abolishing juvenile courts altogether” (Should Juveniles Be Tried as Adults, 2009). “Justice stresses that juvenile courts should be abolished, they believe that if juveniles were tried in adult courts, they would be afforded their full array of constitutional rights” (Should Juveniles Be Tried as Adults, 2009). The supporters for the abolition of juvenile courts base their arguments on the need to punish juvenile criminals and to protect the juveniles' rights. Some of their focal points include: * That juvenile court was founded on false grounds because its purpose is to protect youths from the consequences of their own actions. * Overall juvenile court fails to deter juvenile violence. * The severity of the current juvenile crime problem requires that all juvenile offenders should be punished in order to discourage the next...