Clark Atlanta University
Juvenile Justice Reform Act Effects on Society vs. the Juveniles Themselves
Juvenile justice is the area of criminal law that applies to those individuals that aren’t of age to be held responsible for criminal acts. The age, in most states, for a juvenile criminal, is set at 18 years. While being mainly governed by state law, juvenile law usually enacts a juvenile code. Although the main goal of the juvenile justice system is supposedly rehabilitation rather than punishment, juveniles are usually transferred into adult court if the juvenile court waives or relinquishes its jurisdiction. The public eye has no idea very unaware of the actions that the law chooses to take in the case of these young adults and children. For young offenders, law enforcement is often the entry point into the juvenile justice system. When a juvenile is apprehended for the first time for violating the law, it is the police officer who determines the nature of the offender’s initial involvement with the justice system. Using data compiled by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, as well as studying notable juvenile crimes, I plan to provide a wealth of information on law enforcement and juvenile crime. Soon after Congress passed the Juvenile Delinquency Prevention and Control Act in 1968, it was revised in 1972, and renamed the Juvenile Delinquency Prevention Act. The act was created to assist local communities and states in providing community based preventative services to youths in danger of becoming delinquent, to help train individuals in occupations providing such services, and to provide technical assistance in the field. The Federal Juvenile Delinquency Act defines juvenile delinquency (any act that is otherwise a crime, but is committed by someone less than 18 years of age) and sets forth rules by which state laws must comply with regard to juvenile court procedures and punishments (Cornell). The cases of these young juveniles need to be exposed, or at least the majority of them. Different laws may have been imposed on different juveniles and different crime free rates will be shown after implementing punishment. I intend to analyze the enforcement of juvenile justice laws and their effects on the youth.
On July 23, 1995, an intruder brutally attacked and stabbed Janet Downing approximately 100 times in her Somerville home. The revolting Downing murder and ensuing arrest of Edward O'Brien Jr., a 15-year-old juvenile whom prosecutors say committed the heinous crime, sent shockwaves through the state. When Somerville District Court Judge Paul P. Hefferman ruled that the Commonwealth try Mr. O'Brien as a juvenile, those shockwaves grew in intensity, and the citizens of Massachusetts, fed up with increasing youth violence and perceptions of an ineffective juvenile justice system, demanded the enactment of tough new laws to deal with repeat and violent juvenile offenders (New York Times). The Great and General Court of Massachusetts headed these demands for reform of the juvenile justice system and enacted legislation that, among other things, abolishes the trial de novo system in the juvenile courts, requires the trial of juveniles charged with murder, manslaughter, aggravated rape, forcible rape of a child, kidnaping, assault with intent to rob or murder and armed burglary in adult court and permits prosecutors to open to the public juvenile proceedings when they seek an adult sentence. Although proponents tout these measures as a sagacious solution for the vexatious problem of juvenile delinquency, abolishing the trial de novo system, providing for automatic adult trials and opening juvenile proceedings to the public when prosecutors seek an adult sentence works to the detriment, not the benefit, of juveniles and society. Therefore, the policy makers of Massachusetts should repeal most sections of the...
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