Juvenile jurisdictions in the United States

The trend noted here has been promoted by the general terms in the provisions of children's court acts, which authorize wide discretionary autonomy in adjudication and treatment on the foundation of vague standards of the conduct and the attitude of the child. Thus a child whose behaviour shows no specific and serious contravention of the law may nevertheless be treated "'preventively" if he is found to endure from problems of social or psychological un adjustment (Mann, 2000).

The growth of governmental process is seen in the effort of juvenile courts today to avert misconduct through supervision by probation officers and to contract with children's problems in their early stages before more staid recalcitrance may develop. The large and growing sum of informal work performed by probation departments in cases that are not officially arbitrated is a part of this trend.

This work divulges the effort of a tryout to function as an ordinary casework agency: "The juvenile court in its investigations and case work becomes an administrative social-work agency and should follow the example of the pre-eminent private agencies in the fullest cooperation with others, taking benefit of the resources they offer in helping to work out the complicated and difficult problems frequently presented" (Duffy, Gillig, 2004).

The significant point, to be developed later, that in most jurisdictions neither trial staff nor judges are trained for a preventive case-work function (Boesky, 2002). The administrative approach is exposed further by the quite thriving resistance that comes frequently from probation officers, at times even from the judges themselves, to the legal requirements of proving an offence, exclusive of hearsay and prejudicial testimony, permitting counsel to the defendant, and permitting appeal.

The argument runs that the court exists for the care, defence, and benefit of the child; it is therefore needless to set up safeguards and frustrating limitations on the agency that would assist him. There is a marked inclination among many leaders of the juvenile court movement today, in thinking the child to be merely "unfortunate" or "unadjusted," to evade reference to delinquency itself. They sometimes favour the burying of institutional statistics on the juvenile delinquent in several all-inclusive and innocuous categories (Know, 2000).

This whole view appears to overlook the noteworthy point that whatever he may be called, he is in fact treated as an offender through court control, and is himself frequently buried deeper in the correctional system than his statistics can be. A short quotation from each of two cases famous in the jurisprudence of the children's court will provide to exemplify this central problem of needing proof of delinquency. How a particular jurisdiction determining the issue determines significantly that may be considered a delinquent there.

Modern probation tends to imitate the preventive views and administrative means of professional case work, meritorious values within the frame of nonofficial casework agencies. But it must be remembered, ideal standards to the opposing, that the probation officer is usually not a case worker by professional training but rather an untrained, overworked, and under supervised individual whose capability to carry out effective treatment is inadequate in addition by the coercive authority that the court setting implies.

Furthermore, he exercises far more power over the autonomy of the child than does any proficiently trained private case worker. The sociologic compromise of the juvenile court fails while probation attempts to relocate law and the courts by becoming an administrative social agency (Roberts, & Green, 2002). The compromise fails, too, while the judge attempts to work a junior criminal court.

Among more than a thousand juvenile jurisdictions in the United States, both of those perversions of a liberalized justice are prevalent, but the former is appropriate in especially common error. Later, consideration will be given to a better dissection of legal and social functions in the children's courts. Here concern has been only with the two contradictory spheres of ideology that have had so much to do with the determination of the official criminal through the actual operation of the juvenile courts.

The preference of the court to assume a judicial attitude, on the one hand, or the administrative approach, on the other, resolves to a significant extent the probabilities of a child's being found delinquent and might influence as the type of treatment he receives.


  • Boesky, L. M. (2002). Juvenile offenders with mental health disorders: Who are they and what do we do with them? Lanham, MD: American Correctional Association. HV 9060 . B64 2002
  • Duffy, M. P. & Gillig, S. E. (2004). Teen gangs: A global view. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press. HV 6437 . T441 2004 http://www.onlinelawyersource.com/juvenile/statistics/