Each state has its own trenchant juvenile justice system with its own practices and laws. There are however broad underlying opinion that separates the juvenile justice system from the criminal justice system. The fundamental rationalization of the juvenile court system is that youth are developmentally different from adults and that they are susceptible of being lead or directed. Because of this pliant behavior the justice system feels that rehabilitation and treatment, with the addition of community protection are very feasible goals.
In the adult court the defendant is provided greater Constitutional rights than are available in the juvenile court. An example of this is the criminal defendant has a right to a trial by a judge or a jury of their peers. A minor does not have that right; their fate is decided by a juvenile court judge as to their guilt and what sentence will be handed down. The terminology is different for juvenile court where the minor is considered a respondent, in adult court he is the defendant. The outcome of the trial in criminal court is known as the verdict, in the juvenile court it is adjudication.
Sentencing options in adult court are based on the state or federal statutes. For example a misdemeanor usually results in probation or jail time; a felony however will result in prison time. In the juvenile court the judge can decide the sentence; the result can be time in a detention center, counseling, or house arrest. There are actually three main types of crime; *Infractions which are violations of law or ordinances and are typically minor offenses such as traffic infractions. This type of crime is less than a misdemeanor and may not be considered as a crime.
There are times when a lawyer can negotiate the reduction of a misdemeanor to an infraction when no other offenses are of record. *Misdemeanors are worse than an infraction but not as serious as a felony. These types of crime usually carry a heftier fine, or if sentenced to jail time it is less than one year and is served at the county or city jail. *Felonies are the most serious crimes and each state has different punishments depending on the severity of the crime. In some states felonies can only be prosecuted if a grand jury indicts the offender. Wobblers are crimes that could be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony.
If a wobbler begins as a felony it may be reduced to a misdemeanor at sentencing, or with the completion of a successful probation. There are some disadvantages in the juvenile system. The National Center for Juvenile Justice says that early intervention of a youth offender helps prevent future criminal behavior the juvenile court system has the best chance of preventing the offender from committing crimes again if they intervene in a timely manner by expediting case processing.
The NCJ does not know what the reasoning is for the juvenile court delay; whether it is the overloaded dockets or just that they are inefficient (National Center for Juvenile Justice, 2009). Juveniles can be transferred to Criminal Court by many mechanisms in the system. ‘The National Center for Juvenile Justice found that all states allow adult criminal prosecution under some circumstances” (NCJJ, 2008). Fifteen states allow prosecutors to make the decision of whether a juvenile should be tried in adult court.
There are statutory exclusion laws in 29 states have offenses set that are mandatory for trying juveniles as adults, two states try all 16 and 17 year old offenders are tried as adults. “Campaign for Youth Justice has estimated that 200,000 juveniles are treated as adults in the criminal court system each year” (CYJ, 2011). The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention sponsors a research program to address the causes and correlation of delinquency.
Research indicates many variables correlate with delinquency” (OJJDP, 2009). The following risk factors indicate the increased risk of producing delinquent behavior; [Birth trauma, child abuse and neglect, ineffective parental discipline, family disruptions, conduct disorder and hyperactivity in children, school failure, learning disabilities, negative peer influence, limited employment, inadequate housing, and residence in high-crime neighborhoods] (OJJDP, 2009).
The Causes and Correlates program gives us an understanding of many topics that are relative to juvenile violence and delinquency, this includes development and testing of models for inveterate violent crimes, studying interrelationships with gangs, drug trafficking, possession or use of guns; changes found after a period of time in drug use and delinquency, neighborhood, individual and social risk factors for the more serious offenders.
Personally I feel that reducing juvenile criminal behavior is going to begin at home with Parent-child interaction training programs which take only 12 weeks to complete. It helps parents know how to respond to the behavior of their child in both positive and negative situations. These programs have made a difference by reducing hyperactivity, attention deficit, aggression and anxious behaviors.
Getting children involved while young in youth groups, sports, dancing, church groups, music, rock climbing, horseback riding lessons, art, drama, karate; these are activities that teach them to interact with others in society. Parents have to take the time out for their kids, today parents are busy, both are usually working but it is imperative that we address the reality that if we don’t teach our children from an early age acceptable behavior, get them involved in activities that are productive, and set aside quality time for them there will be more crimes by juveniles.
Conclusion Preventing juvenile delinquency is to assist children and the families early on; educating parents with information on how to raise healthy children, talking to them about drugs and weapons, the consequences of bad behavior in society. Children are easily influenced therefore it is imperative that parents get involved with their children early on. This may not prevent all delinquency but I believe it will have a huge impact.