Sequence # 49
Should the Juvenile Court be Abolished?
The purpose of this paper will be to examine the juvenile court system and whether or not abolishing it is the practical thing to do. To start off with, I will give a brief history of what the juvenile court system consist of and what it was designed to do. Next I will go into both sides of the debate to determine whether or not to abolish the juvenile court system. We will first take a look at the two concepts of the juvenile court system. There is the welfare model in which you help the children, and then there is the due process model in which the children have rights. There are also some issues about how to alter the system. Should a few things be changed, or should the juvenile court system be changed completely? On the other hand you have people saying that these two concepts can’t work together and that the only option is to abolish the whole system all together. We will first take a look at the history of the juvenile courts. The Juvenile Court System began in 1899, and it is now over 110 years old. The Juvenile Court System started in Chicago, Illinois. It was then known as the “children’s court, with jurisdiction over dependent, neglected, and delinquent youth” (office of juvenile justice and delinquency prevention). When the court first started it had a wide range of problems that were dealt with; these included issues such as child custody and visitation, child and spousal support, divorce, runaways, truancy, and many others. According to the Ojjdp (1999) the first juvenile court was established to help youth, and with the belief that the whole community had the responsibility to help these children. This type of court system spread through the United States, and not long after, every state had similar courts. Then in 1966 the courts adopted a model of due process. This made them similar to adult courts, but alternative punishment and treatment opportunities were utilized.
II. Position A
The first side of this issue I want to talk about is what the juvenile court concepts are and how they have been working so far; and though some change may be needed, completely abolishing the system is not the right way to go. When the court first started it was all about the children. It was designed especially for youth to help them with their unique needs in mind. This court is not just for offenders. Neglect and abuse cases are heard in juvenile court, as well as adoption and termination of parental rights cases. All of this is done with the child’s best interest in mind. The OJJDP article on “an Evolving Juvenile Court” (1999) goes through seven things to celebrate during the evolution of the juvenile court. I will briefly discuss these. * The first achievement is the fact that the courts recognized that youth require separate treatment. * The second is the step toward family court where the court didn’t only deal with the juvenile, but also with the other family members. * Third is the treatment of each juvenile as a unique individual. * The fourth was the introduction of the medical model. That is a model that looks at alternative treatments for juveniles. * Fifth they celebrate the idea of alternative methods of dealing with related legal issues. * Sixth is the fact that they turned away from putting children into institutions, and toward keeping families together and helping the families deal with difficult situations. * Seventh the leadership shown in the judges that first ran these courts helped these courts evolve. Recently there has been a shift toward a more punitive function of the juvenile justice system. It now mirrors more of the criminal justice system and the adult courts. According to Cindy S. Lederman (1999) article The Juvenile Court: Putting Research to Work for Prevention, juvenile crime is down. Looking at the data, adults are responsible for most the violent crimes that are...
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