Juvenile justice is an area of law that is solely about handling criminal actions of minors or under age persons who can not be fully held responsible for their criminal acts. Juvenile justice is largely pegged on the Juvenile justice philosophy of fairness (Reichel, 2001). The law in most states considers criminals 18 years old or less as juveniles and most cases aim at correctional or rehabilitation approach as opposed to punishing of the juveniles.
The rationale behind the rehabilitation is being fair to the young criminals and in turn giving them a chance to re-live their lives again as long as they are willing to reform. Matters of Juvenile justice are standardized by the federal government under the juvenile delinquency prevention and control Act of 1968 currently known to as Juvenile Delinquency prevention Act (Langan, 1991). The above legislation together with other federal and state legislations sets procedures for a Juvenile court system which is responsible for all indeterminate or determinate sentencing for Juveniles.
A Juvenile justice philosophy of fairness is important in practice is good in that it deals with competing interests amongst law enforcers which threaten to deprive the Juvenile justice system of its credibility. As a result of the fairness philosophy, the Juvenile justice has now become devoid of contradicts, accusations of rigidness and unfairness as well as ineffectiveness which once characterized the juvenile justice system.
However the philosophy of fairness is usually faced with the challenge of addressing concerns such as guaranteeing the society its safety and protection from the delinquents and at the same time rehabilitating the delinquents in the best way possible. In an effort to uphold fairness, Juvenile courts choose between indeterminate form of sentencing or determinate sentencing. Determinate sentencing advocates for making it clear at the onset of sentencing what duration a delinquent is expected to serve.
The fact that determinate sentencing has actual limits implies that a delinquent will be psychologically being prepared to face the sentence with certainty. This allows the delinquent to plan for future. For instance if one was schooling it becomes easy to plan for studies. Determinate sentence has been found to be a better deterrent of Juvenile delinquency than indeterminate sentencing (Beck, 1995). On the other hand, indeterminate sentencing does not guarantee actual limits but leaves that to the discretion of the paroles (Bedau, Hugo, A. 1997).
Therefore, some delinquents end up serving longer sentences than earlier thought or even far much shorter sentences. Indeterminate sentencing is unfair for Juvenile justice in that they do not allow for the delinquents or their families to plan with certainty about the future of the delinquent. It is evident that indeterminate sentencing is the most popular form of sentencing by juvenile courts in most states in the United States of America. According to (Berg, and Thomas, 2000), indeterminate sentencing has stood the test of time in terms of fairness given the fact that it has well laid down structures hard to beat and infiltrate.
In addition, indeterminate sentencing is known to be flexible and therefore very efficient compared to the determinate type of sentencing which is inflexible and non conformist. Most law enforcers such as police, children officers, juries, attorneys as well as delinquents and the correction officials are all in agreement that, indeterminate sentencing is more useful in achieving the very legitimate goals it was set up to achieve (Hagg, Ernest, and Conrad, 1983).
This makes, indeterminate sentencing more popular than determinate sentencing. In addition law enforces tend to prefer indeterminate sentencing due to the fact that, it is more autonomous in achieving the desirable autonomy of the Juvenile Justice system (Hirsch, 1976). However, indeterminate sentencing has been accused of biases especially along racial lines given the fact that mostly those who are sentenced under the juvenile justice system are disproportionately racial minorities.