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Title: Juvenile Integration
The juvenile justice system is a system that is established to dispense justice to individuals who are still regarded as children by the law. In most cases, these individuals are below 18 years of age since most judicial systems recognize individuals aged 18 and above as adults. Ever since its inception and establishment, the juvenile justice system has played a central role in shaping and changing the lives of millions of young offenders (Sherman, 2011). The ignorance and indifference that is characteristic of many youth is a key factor in the development of juvenile delinquency. These delinquents are, more often than not, just children who may have been integrated into bad company and, therefore, made terrible decisions concerning the path they want to follow. The juvenile system is structured to enable these disoriented and confused individuals to re-take control of their lives in stronger fashion. This system is specifically aimed at reforming the unlawful character and nature that many of these delinquents have.
Having a system that is specifically geared towards reformation and rehabilitation is vital, not only to the general public, but also to the social systems that have been put in place. Since the characters of many children are still malleable, it is necessary to mould these children into the model citizens that they ought to be (Junger-Tas, Dünkel, 2009). The case of cutting a child’s arm off for sticking a finger in the fan does not apply, insofar as the juvenile justice system is concerned. This system is one of the most important structures since it gives the youth opportunities not only to learn from their mistakes, but also to correct their deformed characters. The opportunity to correct any social or behavioral problems that these youths may have is the main reason for the establishment of the juvenile justice system.
Mistakes are just that, mistakes
In the formative years of one’s life, one is prone to make plenty of mistakes. It is often argued that life is no rehearsal, and there is no second opportunity to re-do, what one has done, in a better way than they did. This fact cannot be truer, and especially so for the youth who are in their formative years. The period between 10 and 16 years of age is one of the most crucial in the life of any individual (Sherman, 2011). Other than the physical changes in one’s body that take place, one also experiences emotional and psychological changes. In this phase, it is necessary to make sure that these youths channel their energies in the right direction if they are to make the most of their lives. Despite all this, the fallibility of the youth in this age group is very high. Many youths develop a false sense of adulthood in which they think themselves mature enough to make decisions that have direct implications on their lives. They often believe that they are old enough to decide what they want to do with their lives (Hastings, 1973). In the event that these youths are not properly guided and fall into bad company, the effects can be detrimental.
The influence that society has on the youth cannot be underestimated. Many youths tend to behave as the society in which they grew up does. This leaves a distinct gap between youths who grow up in privileged societies and those that grow up in impoverished societies (Ward, 2012). Many of the youths who grow up in the impoverished societies tend to be more likely to end up in front of a juvenile court judge than the youths who grow up in privileged societies. While this is saddening, it is often as a result of poor decision making coupled with influences from society. As a result, many youth engage in drug and substance abuse while others join criminal neighborhood gangs that terrorize society.
Many at times, a vast majority of the youth that are apprehended by law enforcement authorities while breaking the law are trying to prove to their peers that they can ‘fit into’ the societal frame. It is only right, then, that these youths are not condemned to eternal damnation due to moments of weakness (Junger-Tas, Dünkel, 2009). After all, they are just human, and man is to err. As a society, it is right that these youths are made aware of their unlawful activities and then corrected to ensure they learn from their mistakes. By focusing on the offender and not the offence, the juvenile justice system is geared at addressing the root cause of problems and not the superficial aspects of these problems. By changing the youth, the juvenile system is able to change the society.
This forms a vital component of the judicial system. Its drive to correct individuals, rather than punish individuals for wrongs done, is central in the fight against juvenile delinquency. By focusing on getting the individual to refrain from such offences in the future, the juvenile justice system distances itself from the criminal justice system (Hastings, 1973). In this manner, the juvenile system is able to address the more vital matter of dealing with juvenile delinquents than dealing with punishing juvenile offenders.
Behavioral Change in Juvenile Delinquents
Once the youths are charged and adjudicated in a juvenile court, they are put under the direct supervision of the court. This gives the court the opportunity to reform and re-mould the characters of these misguided youth. This is a great opportunity on the side of the judicial justice system, seeing that if it does its job well, it is able to create model citizens out of these juvenile delinquents. Recent surveys have found out that more than half of the juvenile delinquents that successfully completed their probation periods and rehabilitation programs went on to lead extremely productive lives. This is an impressive track record for the juvenile justice system, much unlike the criminal justice system. The few who failed to reform their characters after undergoing the juvenile rehabilitation program have been found to have an array of problems, most of which border on the mental and psychological domains.
The main reason behind the successful rehabilitation and reformation of these juvenile delinquents is rehabilitation through individualized justice. The keen focus on the offender and not the offence is vital in the juvenile justice system. This approach coupled with a focus on rehabilitation and not punishment further distances the juvenile justice system from the criminal justice system. This approach has enabled probation officers to keenly monitor the changes in behavioral patterns of the delinquents (Grigorenko, 2012). By concentrating itself on fixing the underlying problem affecting the individual, rather than the outcomes of poor decisions made by the individuals, the juvenile system has played a central role in the reformation of juvenile delinquents. By engaging the delinquents in a variety of rehabilitation programs, the court seeks to correct the defective character traits in the delinquents- character traits that have no place whatsoever in society.
Consistent engagement of these delinquents in such programs has a behavioral effect on them. By restricting their contact and relation with the negative facets of the society that led to their adjudication in the first place, the court is able to slowly change the behaviors of these delinquents. Human beings, among them the youth, are defined as creatures of habit. It is a fact that most of the societal norms and accepted behaviors are as a result of habits that were found to be socially accepted (Ward, 2012). Through the application of this principal, the juvenile justice system has been able to constantly influence and reform the lives of millions of youths. This, in effect, positively impacts on society.
By constantly associating the delinquents with positive aspects of life and society, the court is able to influence behavioral change in the juvenile delinquents. This behavioral change is the most positive aspect of the juvenile justice system, seeing that it can have a domino effect on the society (Junger-Tas, Dünkel, 2009). By changing a few misguided individuals, the court hopes to change society, as well. Having a few individuals that can influence their peers to refrain from making poor decisions that have strong implications on their lives can prevent more youth from falling into the snares of juvenile delinquency. Creating positive agents of change out of juvenile delinquents is a vital aspect of the juvenile justice system that continues to underscore its importance to delinquents and to society at large.
The procedural impact that the juvenile justice system has on the delinquents cannot be underestimated. The fact that the juvenile justice system bases itself on correcting the offender and not the particular offence has been key in reforming many of the youth that are adjudicated as delinquents by the juvenile justice system. Bearing in mind that the youth are still in the formative years of their lives, their ability to commit crimes does not portray these youths as rotten eggs that ought to be thrown away (Sherman, 2011). This highlights the much greater and more important fact-that these youths have the potential to commit worse crimes in the future. This is an omen that portends a dark future for these youths if the right corrective measures are not taken. Basing itself on this premise, the juvenile justice system is geared at making the world a better place by ensuring that the spotlight is put on the offender and not the offence. In this manner, the court is able to take on an active role in re-shaping the defective personality of the delinquent.
The ability of the juvenile justice system to play devil’s advocate for the delinquents and spearhead the rehabilitation and reform of these juvenile offenders only underscores the importance of the juvenile justice system in any country. Rather than condemn the young offenders, this system advocates for their rehabilitation and reformation into useful and model citizens in society (Junger-Tas, Dünkel, 2009). This is a big plus for the juvenile justice system. It only reaffirms the reason why the system was established as early as 1899. In the establishment of the first juvenile court in Cook County, Illinois, the welfare of the child was the primary concern of the court. Seeing this maintained to date is a manifestation of the importance of this justice system in society.
Dispositional Methods of the Juvenile Justice System
In carrying out its mandate to rehabilitate and reform misguided youth into useful citizens in society, the juvenile justice system is mandated to apply an array of dispositional methods in realizing this goal. The key concept and perhaps the most important one is that these dispositional methods are all geared at reform and not punishment. The criminal justice system, unlike the juvenile one, is hell-bent on punishing offenders for the felonies that they commit on the premise that they are adults and know full well the consequences of their actions. The methods applied by the juvenile justice system in no way intend to punish the offender for the felony committed (Grigorenko, 2012). This, once more, echoes the primary role of the juvenile system as a parental body intent on reforming and rehabilitating delinquents.
First among the methods employed by the juvenile justice system is the simplest of them all. Issuing warnings seems quite a silly thing to do, especially to the person on whom the offences were committed. However, the power that issuing warnings has on the psyche and mindset of the individual can only be disregarded at one’s own peril. The best case scenario is that of raising children. When raising a child, plenty of mistakes are bound to be made. While this is inevitable, how to deal with the mistakes proves to be an uphill task even to the most learned or committed of parents. Punishing the child every time he or she makes a mistake only serves to acquaint the child with the ‘dreaded’ notion of punishment. While this may prove effective at first, repeated application of this technique has been found to have detrimental long-term effects on the development and attitude of the child. Seeing that the young delinquents are merely extensions of children, it is only right that this logic also be applied in dealing with the delinquents (Sherman, 2011). Paying special attention to the particular case, the effectiveness of a warning can be extremely powerful or outright ineffective.
Advocating for a juvenile justice system where all the alleged delinquents will be issued with warnings all the time is absurd, seeing that this will only make a mockery of a system so vital in the justice system of a country. However, advocating for the reverse- a system driven by instilling fear on delinquents through punishment- will only make the situation worse as many delinquents will become familiar to the punishments issued. By judging from the juvenile files and records, as well as the severity of the crime perpetrated by the accused offenders, the court can rightfully determine if issuing a warning will suffice. Warnings are a vital part of the juvenile justice system, especially for first-time minor offenders (Junger-Tas, Dünkel, 2009). The warnings give first-time minor offenders the opportunity to quickly come back to their senses, especially in the individual in question is of sound mind.
Taking advantage of the psyche of young individuals is a key aspect in shaping the lives of these individuals. In the case of these young offenders, issuing warnings to offenders with impressive records will probably refrain them from committing felonies in the future, out of the fear that they may not be lucky enough next time. Although this dispositional method does not guarantee a 100% success rate if done correctly it has the potential to impact positively on the lives of many first-time offenders who find themselves in juvenile courts for mistakes they could have possibly avoided making (Hastings, 1973).
Another dispositional method that is applied by the juvenile justice system is probation supervision. In this particular method, the delinquent is put under the court’s probation and supervised by the court, through probation officers until the probation period is completed. This method has proven highly effective in correcting many of the juvenile delinquents that have found themselves adjudicated and put on probation.
The core principle behind putting delinquents on probation supervision is the correction of defective personalities and negative character traits. This correction can be applied through the administration of services that are essential to the community in which the delinquent lives. By making sure, the delinquent participates in constructive activities that benefit the community, the court aims at making the delinquent aware of the benefits of being a good citizen of society. A majority of the delinquents that are put on probation supervision are engaged in volunteer work in the community such as cleaning streets and alleys, planting trees, maintaining parks and playgrounds, as well as helping out in homeless shelters and homes for the aged (Ward, 2012). These activities are centralized on helping the less privileged in society. Seeing that a large number of these delinquents are individuals from similar less privileged backgrounds, such activities help the delinquents appreciate their society and the members of this society. This is a key aspect of reshaping the characters of these juvenile delinquents.
The supervision aspect of this probation is also a key factor in the rehabilitation of delinquents. It is a fact that many of the young offenders that find themselves in the throes of the juvenile justice system are, more often than not, victims of some kind of neglect or abuse. Having experienced plenty of parental neglect in their formative years, these young offenders have learnt quite early on to make decisions on their lives and how they want to live their lives. Their gullibility and naivety play a central role in the terrible decisions that many of these youth take. The absence of parental concern and care in their lives is a key reason why these youth engage in unlawful activities (Grigorenko, 2012).
For some of these delinquents, engaging in these activities is a channel of seeking parental attention and comfort. Seeing the great need for parental care, concern and comfort, it is necessary to have in place individuals that will assume the role of a parent or guardian in the lives of these young offenders. The absence of quarters from which these youth can seek advice on the daily challenges in their lives plays a key role in juvenile delinquency. It is only right, therefore, that this problem is fully addressed. The availability of probation officers and workers in the lives of juvenile delinquents is extremely important in the reformation process of these youth. The presence of some form of parental care and concern helps, albeit partly, to fill the void left by the parents of these young offenders. This reformation process is a key process in the juvenile justice system.
In order to guarantee the continued success of the juvenile justice system, the provision of these probation officers and supervisors must continue. The impact that many of these probation workers have on the lives of juvenile delinquents is impressive and often at the center of the rehabilitation of these young offenders. Having a role model works wonders on the juvenile delinquents (Hastings, 1973). Cases of juvenile delinquents moving on to become probation workers after being inspired by their own probation workers are not rare. It is necessary to underscore the importance of the probation worker in the rehabilitation program because a good worker will foster the rehabilitation process while a bad worker will facilitate just the opposite of the intended result. This observation only further emphasizes the importance of the juvenile justice system in any nation.
In severe cases where the delinquent is in need of immense help from the juvenile justice system, training school confinement is the preferred method of rehabilitation used. Usually a reserve for delinquents that stand to pose a threat to the peace and security of society, training school confinement is one of the most impressive dispositional methods that can be employed by the juvenile justice system in rehabilitation of delinquents (Junger-Tas, Dünkel, 2009). The main purpose of confining young delinquents in training schools is to get to change their delinquency traits through getting them to appreciate the value of hard and honest work. This is vital in reshaping the mindset and character of juvenile delinquents put on this rehabilitation process.
With a large majority of the delinquents being involved in petty crime, it is safe to say that the quick buck has been served as perennial bait for the desperate teenager. The desire to be rich and to fit in society has forced many an individual into petty crime, in the hope of fitting into the social classes that society brutally puts forward (Ward, 2012). This desire to make quick and easy money is a result of the despicable nature in which hard honest work is viewed. The training schools aim specifically to address this problem, so that even after the probation period has elapsed, the reformed delinquents have acquired skill sets that they can employ to better their lives.
In the training schools, the delinquents are confined, unlike when delinquents are on probation. This confinement serves to limit contact between the delinquents and negative forces such as bad company, which would derail the rehabilitation process initiated by the juvenile justice system. In the schools, the children learn useful and practical skills that will enable them survive in the modern world. The fact that the education of the delinquent, if there was any in the beginning is affected by the inability to regularly attend class due to confinement in the juvenile training school. This forces many young offenders to learn and perfect certain skills that help them to manage their lives, their rehabilitation and their re-integration into society.
This will ensure that the training schools are exploited to yield the best possible results through positive association and committed learning channeled towards character improvement (Hastings, 1973). The ability of these training confinement schools gives misguided youth the opportunity to improve themselves and in short, have a second chance at what they missed out on. Creating a deep curiosity and desire to learn in the delinquents is a key aspect of the rehabilitation process in its entirety. Coming from the principle that every person deserves a second chance, the training school is aimed at specifically doing that. Giving delinquents a second chance to live a life, free of the problems that they ensnare themselves in, is the primary reason the training schools were set up in the first place. The need to restrict the individual in terms of contact and communication with potentially dangerous company is an important part in the rehabilitation of the specific individual.
With this in mind, it is impossible to imagine the absence of a juvenile justice system in any nation. The dependability of the probation workers and the rehabilitation process in general cannot be downplayed. The juvenile justice system has proven itself as one of the most reliable system that the government can accord, young juvenile, offenders.
Juvenile Integration and Re-Integration
The integration of the juvenile justice system as a fully functional part of the legal system is very important (Ward, 2012). The need for the government to fully incorporate the juvenile justice system is rising every day, due to the growing number of young offenders that are in need of rehabilitation services. The fight towards creating equality between the juvenile justice system and the criminal justice system is one that must be fully supported. As important as the criminal justice system is it cannot stand alone and guarantee a secure and just nation. This warrants the need for the juvenile system to be fully integrated in terms of status and funding. Increasing the funding allocated to the juvenile justice system is geared at improving service delivery to young offenders.
The integration of juvenile delinquents into the social frame is also very important. It makes no sense for a government to spend money rehabilitating a misguided individual only for the society to further stigmatize the delinquent (Grigorenko, 2012). Only through integrating adjudicated delinquents into society, can the judicial system fully rehabilitate the societal misfits that delinquents are viewed as. It is necessary to re-integrate the reformed delinquents into society through the establishment of organs and channels that allow for these individuals to blend into society with little or no trouble at all. These channels should provide for the alleviation of the stigma that is very often associated with delinquents, whether reformed or not. Taking steps to ensure that all the work put into the rehabilitation phase does not go to waste insofar as the delinquent’s life is concerned. This only reiterates the importance of the juvenile justice system in all matters judicial.
In the case of Kent v.The United States, the waiver of jurisdiction by the juvenile court was a gross misconduct on the part of the courts. The fact that Kent was only 16 at the time that he was arrested and charged warranted that he is adjudicated in a juvenile court. This adjudication would prove whether Kent was actually guilty and if so, what the consequences were. On the other hand, there was the possibility that Kent was not guilty of the offences he was accused of and this was instrumental in the decision held by the court.
Deciding to waive jurisprudence from the juvenile court to the district court posed a great challenge to the young delinquent, seeing that the decision held by the court of law was arrived at without a consensual meeting or other similar activity.
The fact that the juvenile court that was originally handling the case failed to conduct “full investigations” is grounds for dismissal of the case. The absurd denial of this fact only served to worsen the state of affairs in the case of Kent. Kent was tried as an adult and subsequent appeals only resulted in a cat and mouse affair that involved endless trials. In waiving the jurisdiction of the petitioner, there was no clear procedure that was followed. The trial judge did not confer with counsel and neither did he provide reasons for waiving jurisdiction of the petitioner, in this case Kent.
These are some of the challenges that the juvenile justice system has faced. The absence of a clear structure that aligns this system with the criminal justice system, in its teething stages resulted in many losses to those involved in juvenile cases. However, the development and gradual evolution of the juvenile justice system has seen the system return to its core values that place the welfare of the child above all else (Grigorenko, 2012). The fact that the juvenile justice system as it is today surveys to rehabilitate and reform misguided and lost youth into responsible model citizens cannot be downplayed. The juvenile system is just as important as the criminal system, although all other indications seem to be of dissenting opinion.
If the success rate of both systems were to be compared, it is likely that the juvenile system will emerge victorious. Having a justice system that bases itself on correcting the offender rather than punishing for the offence committed is a blessing in disguise (Hastings, 1973). The ability of the judicial system to make full use of this justice system and approach will prevent plenty of headaches. After all, is it not true that a stitch in time saves nine? It is unquestionable that the juvenile justice system is a vital aspect of the judicial structure that gives young people the opportunity to correct any behavioral and social problems that they may have.
Grigorenko, E. L. (2012). Handbook of juvenile forensic psychology and psychiatry. New York: Springer.
Hastings, J. C. (1973). Juvenile justice: Integration of law and social change.
Junger-Tas, J., & Dünkel, F. (2009). Reforming juvenile justice. Dordrecht [The Netherlands: Springer.
Sherman, F. T. (2011). Juvenile justice: Advancing research, policy, and practice. Hoboken, N.J: Wiley.
Ward, G. K. (2012). The Black Child-Savers: Racial Democracy and Juvenile Justice.