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The formal juvenile court system was founded in 1899 on the premise that youth are different from adults, and thus needs to be treated differently in the justice system.Youth,the researchers argued, had not yet attained several traits like culpability and competency to stand trial, that are the hallmarks of the adult criminal system. The main purpose for the juvenile court system was to serve as a surrogate parent, not merely punishing, but also giving youth a second chance to rehabilitate and become productive adults. However, in the 1990s, the country increased its focus away from rehabilitation to a get hard policy in the juvenile courts after being faced with a sharp increase in violent crime and a perception that youth were causing more heinous crimes. More youths were therefore sent to adult prisons and jails and within the juvenile system, rehabiltaition lost its meaning (McShane, 2003). The researchers argue that, for a better balance between rehabilitation and punishment, new policy and practices directions are suggested to help these vulnerable youth change their lives after a difficult beginning. An effort to temper punishment and deterrence with skill-building and to address the underlying psychological development that improves later success represents a more balanced approach to crime control and prevention.
Juvenile court philosophy
Minors who violate or break the laws before their seventeenth birthday may be brought into the juvenile justice system. Juvenile delinquency cases are not criminal. Therefore, the philosophy of the family courts juvenile division is rehabilitation and treatment for the delinquent youth, not punishment. Family depravity was considered to be the main source of delinquent behavior in the 19th century. Hooliganism and crime was a result of parental failure to bring up their children with proper values. The solution was to separate children from these environments and put them in asylums and reformatories in an attempt to replicate the family functions.
Juvenile court process
Petition. This is issued after investigation process has been carried and the prosecuting attorney reviews through the reports and facts so as to make the decision on wether the court action are needed. If yes, the prosecutor then issues the petition, underlining the offenses with which the juvenile is charged. The petition therefore, is filed with the circuit court's family division that officially starts the court process.
The next process involves the preliminary inquiry, which is the first hearing in a juvenile prosecution and is similar to an arrangement in adult court. This hearing is not attended by the prosecuting attorney. The juvenile is told of the charged offenses and his or her constitutional rights. During this hearing, the family of the juvenile can file for a court appointed attorney. The family court's juvenile division can also warn the juvenile and dismiss the petition when appropriate, take the juvenile for voluntary counseling, put the juvenile o informal probation if they qualify or even schedule the case for further hearing on the courts formal docket. The court may schedule a plea and deposition hearing incase the juvenile admits responsibility for the offense.Therefore, the youth may be released to his or her parents care with terms and conditions or be held at the youth facility or the public.
Pre-trial conference is the third stage of the youth court process and it involves the scheduling of a pre-trial conference incase the juvenile does not initially accept responsibility for the offense. During this stage, the juvenile's attorney and the prosecuting attorney meet in regard to whether the juvenile will plead to the charged offenses or different offenses, or if the case will be taken for trial. The prosecutor discuses alternatives for resolving the case and therefore all criminals are always encouraged to attend the pre-trial conferences (Jenkins, 2009).
At adjudication trial, the judge determines whether the juvenile committed an offense.Therefore, the prosecution is required to present clear evidence to prove the juvenile's actions beyond a reasonable doubt. The juvenile is not necessarily required to prove his or her innocence. Incase the offense was proven; the juvenile comes within the jurisdiction of the court.
Another stage in the juvenile court process includes the disposition, which is similar to an adult court sentencing. In this process, a probation officer's report finalizes the youth's background and need for services and recommends terms of disposition. After the judge considering this information, he or she decides on the final terms of the disposition. The judge being with wide latitude, he is required to order services and programs that are appropriate for the welfare of the juvenile and society. Examples of typical dispositions are probation, guiding and counseling, letter of apology to the victim, restitution, and community activities or services. The judge therefore, can give a warning to the juvenile and /or the parent then dismiss the petition, he can chose to put the youth on in-home probation with either the parents or the guardian, send the youth in foster care subject to the court's jurisdiction, or even put an order for the payment of a crime victim rights assessment fee, and reimbursement of court appointed attorney expenses and other court services expenses (Gus, 2005). Disposition being the final stage in the juvenile court process, crime victims are very much motivated to attend because this is when victims deliver verbal, or written impact statements. This statement may give explanations on the physical, psychological, or emotional harm experienced by the victim, request restitution, and recommend appropriate terms of disposition.
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How these philosophies differ from the adult court process
The justice system recognizes that while there are differences between juvenile and adults, and youths who commit crimes that are of an adult actions, can be tried in either a juvenile court or an adult court system. There are three categories of criminal offences and these include misdemeanor, infraction, and felony. Some of these crimes are very unique to juveniles for example, curfew violations, truancy and unruly acts.However; juvenile criminals are listed as either criminal offenders, juveniles remanded to superior court, informal probationers or status criminals (Feeley, 1992).
The punishment philosophies within the juvenile court and its process differ from the adult court process in that conviction and sentencing in juvenile and adult justice is the treatment emphasized and support system involved that translates into a more expensive operation when juvenile is included. The juvenile punishment system deals with treatment and rehabilitation, whereas the adult system bases more on punishment. In addition, juvenile offenders and at risk have the help of the support of non-law enforcement agencies like the community based organizations, social services agencies and schools.
Furthermore, the juvenile system may allow the arrested criminals the humiliation of facing relatives, spending the night in juvenile homes, and communicating with a probation officer or judge. This means that most of the youths who are caught will not be arrested as adults. Another different in the juvenile and adult courts is the nature of the terminologies used. For instance, the terminologies used in the juvenile who are brought to court includes such words as an "an act of delinquency" whereas in the adult court they use the term "crime". Adults do not receive special considerations in terms of their background like education, and family background. But the youths are given this special consideration basing on their family background and academic record while before the judge.
The juvenile punishment systems base on the individualized rehabilitation of the criminal. While the adult courts focus more on the expression of the community's disapproval for the illegal actions with an appropriate amount of punishment for all conviction. In the juvenile court, the sentence may vary from commitment to a youth center, or treatment training school, while in the adult court immediately after facing trial, incase there is a convicton,a sentence hearing and of course the sentence (Elrod, 2009).
Although punishment is a very vital component of the justice system's reaction to juvenile offending, it is hard for it alone to make improvements on the future of delinquent you. It's important that the youths join or enter into adulthood with sufficient and effective maturity to enable them in decision making process, develop satisfying personal relationships, and maintain gainful employment opportunities. Therefore they require adequate support for them to achieve this. The most vulnerable group in the society is the youth in the juvenile justice system. This is because most of the time they suffer mental health problems, issues of abuse of substance, and lack of variety of advantages that others in their age group have achieved. To support these juveniles, advanced organizations and other territorial impede the continuity, consistency, and collaboration necessary to assist the youth as they experience transformation to adulthoood.Provision of services through interagency groups with authority and flexible resources holds the promise for both youth and for public safety. Another strategy to success includes having well trained staff with manageable caseloads. Although deterrence and punishment have a significant place in sanctioning policy, but offering the youth with the necessary tools and skills and the maturity to use those skills wisely is very important.
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