The entire Juvenile Justice system is very beneficial from the point of view of the youth offender. Firstly, it avoids labeling an individual as a criminal and hence goes a long way in rehabilitating the offender in the future. The in camera trial, the non disclosure of records play a very important role as they ensure that the juvenile is given a chance to re-enter the real world and survive without the stigma of an offender.
It is seen that employers often do a background check on the applicant’s adult crime history and because of the juvenile justice system, such children are not labeled and hence their path to success in their careers is not hindered in any manner (An Overview of Juvenile Justice). Secondly, the correctional response of the juvenile justice system is community based wherein depending on the nature of the offence, the type of community based correction is decided. This can be in the form of detention centers or training schools.
Some detention centers are equivalents of jails with the same problems as jails. However, there is an increasing awareness to create more open detention centers that rely on human interaction as the best form of rehabilitation. The second community based system is a training center wherein a juvenile delinquent is counseled and trained so as to return to the outside world totally rehabilitated. Studies reveal that juvenile delinquency occurs largely due to unemployment, vagrancy, drug abuse, alcoholism, abusive homes and insecurity in family set up.
The focus of such training centers is on ensuring that such delinquents are given proper treatment and counseled. They are then given proper education and vocational training. They are often involved in various peer group activities to ensure that they can re-enter the outside world as a new person. The drawback of this system is that sometimes the activities can be physically and emotionally challenging and make the person feel more discouraged. Moreover, such systems are overloaded and often cannot give full attention to the inmates, which thus result in the inmates getting worse.
Problems like rape etc faced by adults in prisons are often replicated in such training centers due to the large numbers of persons and lack of individual attention. The other correction system is that of Group Homes, Halfway Homes, Foster Homes and Day care treatment centers. These are open centers that allow the juveniles to go out during the day but they have to return in the night. The Juvenile Justice system can also be disadvantageous from the delinquent’s point of view.
The major disadvantage of the system is that it can be discriminatory as the persons determining the nature of the offence and the type of punishment are human beings. Studies have shown that youth belonging to the African American, Latino and other such minority groups are often found in large numbers with a history of juvenile delinquency and for acts that are very serious in comparison to white youths who are few in number and largely booked for traffic violations (The Juvenile Court: Analysis and Recommendations).
While this may largely be due to the economic factor, the possibility of discrimination cannot be totally ruled out. Another major disadvantage factor is the waiver of the case to adult court. In case the offence is serious, the probationary officer tends to waive the case to an adult court. In such cases, the juvenile is tried as if he/she were an adult and hence the entire purpose of rehabilitation and counseling is defeated. Given the disadvantages of the system, there have been various individuals seeking total abolition of the Juvenile Justice system and the integration of juvenile cases into Adult Courts.
However, this is not advisable as though the system has some disadvantages; it is beneficial to society as can be seen from the following discussion. It is seen that the entire system of Juvenile Justice largely concentrates on the re-entry of the delinquent into the real world. It is based on the presumption that when a juvenile is arrested and put through trial and sent to jail with adult prisoners, he/she imbibes the nature of crime into his self and is a follower of the principle “once a criminal, always a criminal”.
The Juvenile Justice system is an attempt to help youth offenders from getting caught into this trap. They feel that if youth offenders were counseled and asked to do some community service and interact with persons, they would realize their mistake and would be ready to change and not repeat the offence again. Secondly, studies have revealed that poor economic background and abusive homes are the main reasons for juvenile delinquency. If this were to be rectified then there would be a considerable decrease in cases of juvenile delinquency.
In order to achieve this, the system has set up rehabilitation measures that ensure that once a youth leaves the system he/she is totally trained and fully equipped to find a job and ensure that he/she can fully take care of their family. In short, the Juvenile Justice system helps alleviate crime in society. It also ensures that youth offenders become well adjusted in society and do not repeat crimes. If such an institution was to be abolished and the youth offenders were to be tried in adult courts, they would return from their punishments as hardened adults and instead of re-adjusting in society would view society as their enemy.
Secondly, when such youth offenders are not given a chance to interact with society in such a positive manner, they are discriminated against on the basis of their offence record and often find themselves an object of hate and ridicule. This affects their self esteem and thus results in maladjusted individuals who turn to crime as their only chance of survival. Further, in cases where the youth is a victim of an abusive home, he would have no place to go and would either become aggressive or totally passive in order to deal with the situation.
Totally passiveness to abuse would result in depression and other mental disorders whereas aggression would result in crime, either way, our society is affected. From the above, it can be concluded that though the Juvenile Justice system does not fully meet the requirements of the day, a total abolition would be disastrous. Instead modifications can be made so as to suit the nature of today’s youth and the offences committed by them. Like each system, the Juvenile Justice system also has its drawbacks and various recommendations or reforms are proposed so as to redress the problems.
One very important problem with the system, is the quality of legal representation that is provided to the delinquents. It is seen that most often the delinquents are not provided with proper legal representation and when provided the attorneys often lack experience and sensitivity. It is thus recommended that proper training be provided to these attorneys wherein they are trained in advocacy skills, developments in law, and linguistics so that they can understand the children they are representing.
It is further seen that these delinquents are often adjudicated by judges and it is necessary that they are also well trained on the aspects of child behavior and have prior experience in such cases. It is also recommended that the approach to rehabilitate juvenile delinquents should be multi faceted community based approach wherein the parents, children and community should interact together so that the delinquent is properly adjusted in society. Also that the system should treat the children and their parents with dignity and respect as this will ensure that the communication between the Court and the Child is effective.
It is further proposed that the Courts should also emit a friendly environment as this would help make the child comfortable and will make the entire process less traumatic (Klain, 1998). The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry has recommended various reform measures to be implemented in the Juvenile Justice system. These included reforms in the developmental context of the child wherein it was felt that the mental state of a child witness or a child victim should be treated with sensitivity so that the child does not feel more traumatized at the end of the session.
Secondly, it was recommended that each correctional center follow a minimum standard that will address the needs of each age group differently. Thirdly it was recommended that adequate health facilities are provided to the detainees and the center has a partnership with various health centers. Further, the detainees are provided full access to assessment and treatment (Arroya & Kraus, 2005). It was further recommended that the centers provide minimum educational standards and for this they tie up with local school programs as this would ensure smooth transition into the outer world.
Comprehensive training should be provided to the youth. They should also be given vocational training depending on their age so as to enable them to adjust in society. It was also recommended that the transfer of cases from juvenile courts to adult courts should not be automatic and should be based on the nature of offence and situation of the individual and community concerned. Counseling should be given due importance as this would help persons with a background in drugs, alcoholism and domestic violence recover and re-adjust in society.
Community participation would also ensure that constant interaction which would lead to better adjustment in society (Arroya & Kraus, 2005). Thus the Juvenile Justice System is beneficial, the proper implementation of which would ensure that youth offenders are adequately trained and counseled and can thus meet their needs and thus re-adjust properly into society.
Arroyo, W & Kraus, L. (2005). Recommendations for Juvenile Justice Reform (2nd Ed. ) Retrieved February 7, 2007 from