The national government has done well to introduce a juvenile criminal justice system (JCJS) that focuses on the needs of the young people below the age of 24 years. The system is different from the adult criminal justice system (ACJS), which punishes offenders based on the crime committed. However, the efforts of the two justice systems cannot be fruitful if public policies are not reviewed in favor of the disadvantaged communities. Parents and the government should review their roles in ensuring healthy childhood developments to keep the youth and adults from crime permanently.
The functions of the JCJS and ACJS are relevant to address the diverging behaviors of the youth caused by poor childhood experiences then worsened by the conditions of a disadvantaged community. That means, with good parenting and having resourceful communities, there would not be a need for juvenile and adult criminal justice systems (Parliament of Victoria, n.d). In the United States and in Australia, the ACJS is designed to deal with offenders that are mostly from disadvantaged communities. That trend is conveyed to exist in JCJS as well. The JCJS focuses more on addressing what makes the youth have undesirable behaviors and when those behaviors are not corrected, the juvenile is transferred to the ACJS to receive harsher punishments. That is because the ACJS focuses on the crime committed (Steinberg, Chung, & Little, 2004).
The juvenile and the adult criminal justice systems all have the same objective, which is to rehabilitate offenders in an effort to have them reformed to become good citizens of the country. The rehabilitative process is expected to be a punitive type that is imposed on the offender based on the crime committed. Thus, the two justice systems assume that every person from the age of 14 years is a rational being that has the free will to make choices and is responsible for his/her actions. However, that assumption is objected because of the immaturity levels or inadequacies young people usually have that make them unable to understand and observe the laws and rules of the government as compared to adults. In addition, unlike adults that have gone through many life experiences to develop their self-control, the youths have a weak self-control and are more likely to commit offenses when frustrated or tempted. Many of the crimes committed by juveniles are those committed by youths in groups indicating that the juveniles are also weak in resisting peer pressure. Therefore, the juveniles cannot be treated the same way as adult offenders when it comes to help them reform. That is to mean the kind of punishment suitable for the juveniles is one aligned with their developmental needs, unlike the one subjected to the adult offenders. The effort to differentiate the two criminal justice systems based on how the juveniles and the adults need to be treated differently has reduced crime rates over the last two decades. Nevertheless, the JCJS needs to be reformed more to make it more effective in addressing criminal behavior among the youth (Chapter 11: Why separate juvenile justice system,2017; Scialabba, 2016).
In criminology, different jurisdictions differ in what they may call an offense and what they may not consider a crime based on their varying cultural, religious, or historical backgrounds. A juvenile is a person above the minimum age (between 6 and 18 yrs) set for an individual that is considered able to make rational decisions, has the free will to do so, and is held responsible for his/her acts. Moreover, a juvenile is one that is the youngest of all other offenders that are above 18 years. Therefore, an offender that is over 18 years can be handled by the juvenile criminal justice system. That concurs with the United Nations that considers any person below the age of 24 a youth. The JCJS focuses more on the individual needs of the youths and not the acts committed. The ACJS is structured differently as it focuses on the crime committed and punishes an offender based on those crimes. Even though the JCJS varies from one jurisdiction to another, the system focuses on the juvenile’s needs. The system does this by ensuring that the court hearings are held discretely and removes unnecessary proceedings such as confronting the accuser and having a defense attorney among others that are followed in the ACJS. The goal of having informal proceedings is to protect the public image of the child and to make it easy for him/her to be reintegrated back to the society (National Academies Press, 2018; Young, Greer & Church, 2017).
In order to address the individual needs of a juvenile, the JCJS also considers all the factors that influence a youth’s behaviors, which the ACJS does not. Some of these factors include the lack of useful resources in the community to direct the youth to focus on developmental behaviors rather than engaging in risky behaviors. Another is parental involvement in the growth of the children, which is affected by the family income level. The other factor is childhood experiences, where the negative ones (such as trauma) tend to affect the behavior of children in the long-term. Thus, unlike in the ACJS, juvenile courts review cases together with the child’s family members and the members of the community the child represents (Human Impact Partners, 2017).
JCJS and ACJS work as a team to address criminal behaviors that tend to develop from the teenage stage. In their teamwork processes, each system has a specific role it plays to eliminate criminal behaviors. The JCJS strives to address a change of behavior observed among the youths with the help of the government, the parents, and the community. On the other hand, the ACJS punishes offenders for crimes that they have committed based on their rationality and willingness. Comparing the two, the JCJS has a lot of work to do in reforming the youth, especially those that have lacked healthy childhood experiences and are living in disadvantaged communities. Without the help of the government, the community, and the parents in playing their roles well in the lives of the children and the youths, the efforts of the JCJS remain futile. When that happens, the troubled youths are transferred to the ACJS to be punished harshly for the crimes they will commit. Children need proper growth and positive childhood experiences to develop the right behaviors and JCJS directs that to happen. However, when what is directed is not done, the youths remain troubled and the life they are only familiar with is a life in crime. That makes the youth become victims of the ACJS.
Chapter 11: Why separate juvenile justice system? (2017). Retrieved from https://uk.sagepub.com/sites/default/files/upm-binaries/79344_Chapter_11.pdf.
Human Impact Partners (2017). Juvenile injustice: Charging youth as adults is ineffective, biased, and harmful. Retrieved from https://humanimpact.org/hipprojects/juvenile-injustice-charging-youth-as-adults-is-ineffective-biased-and-harmful/.
National Academies Press (2018). The juvenile justice system. Retrieved from https://www.nap.edu/read/9747/chapter/7#155.
Parliament of Victoria (n.d). Youth justice in Victoria. Retrieved fromhttps://www.parliament.vic.gov.au/publications/research-papers/download/36-research-papers/13806-youth-justice-in-victoria
Scialabba, N. (2016). Should juveniles be charged as adults in the criminal justice system? American Bar Association. Retrieved from https://www.americanbar.org/groups/litigation/committees/childrens-rights/articles/2016/should-juveniles-be-charged-as-adults/.
Steinberg, L., Chung, H. L. & Little, M. (2004). Reentry of young offenders from the justice system: A developmental perspective. Youth Violence Juvenile Justice, 2(1), 21. Doi: 10.1177/1541204003260045.
Young, S., Greer, B. & Church, R. (2017). Juvenile delinquency, welfare, justice and therapeutic interventions: A global perspective. BJPsych Bulletin, 41(1), 21-29.
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