Policies addressing juvenile offenders

1. Discuss conflicting goals within the juvenile justice system. How do these goals manifest themselves in policies addressing juvenile offenders? It is acknowledged as State policy for it to look after the children of its citizens. This the State does as it fulfills its duty under its role as parens patriae, which loosely translates to acting as a benevolent steward in the mold of a good father over its citizens.

It has to pay special attention to children as for all intents and purposes these children are the future of the State, and as such it is long acknowledged that the State has the power to step into the shoes of a child’s natural parents in order to further the best interests of the child when the child’s natural parents can no longer do so. Because the State will step into the shoes of a child’s natural parents when it needs to, the juvenile justice system has a dual-pronged approach toward crime.

It aims to rehabilitate juvenile offenders through education and to prevent the commission of future crime through deterrence and exposure to retribution. This approach carries with it several effects. The focus on the rehabilitation of the minor has caused the creation of the genear rule that trials in juvenile justice courts must be closed to the public in order to prevent societal recrimination for the ill effects of what may be just youthful exuberance from attaching to the child. This in turn is supposed to shield him from further developmental trauma and alienation from society.

By natural extension, the records of juvenile justice courts are restricted so as to prevent prying eyes to prejudice those with childish indiscretions. However, because violent and heinous crimes committed by minors remains an issue, there remains a component of deterrence and retribution in juvenile justice systems. There are an increasing number of States led by Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Utah, and Virginia, which make public juvenile justice records if the crime committed is of such a degree that it may properly be considered as a felony.

Thus spurred and under the guise of societal protection, most of the States have begun to apply a stricter interpretation of the law, leading to more prosecutions of minors in adult courts, sentencing to serve mandatory minimum sentences,  and even more incarceration. 2. The first juvenile court did not come into being until 1899 in Cook County, Illinois. What were the circumstances surrounding the perceived need for a court addressing only juveniles? How did juvenile court advocates conceptualize the role of the courts?

How did early juvenile courts operate in practice? How did they differ from criminal courts? As modern psychology and sociology began to flourish at the end of the 18th century, there came judicial and social recognition in the substantial distinction in the ability of adolescents to tell right from wrong and display proper cognitive functions. This, coupled with a wave of new thinking in the criminal justice system that was geared toward rehabilitative justice would lead to the establishment of the juvenile justice system.

This a philosophy was supported by a firm belief in the basic goodness of man – which in turn spawned the idea that the main reason for juvenile crime was a “lack of moral education” and not some other internal cause. In response, many institutions dedicated toward the rehabilitation of juvenile offenders began to sprout all over 19th century America. The advocacy by these early promoters of a separate judicial system for juvenile offenders led to the establishment of the Cook County juvenile justice court in 1899.

The legal doctrine of parens patriae, where the State must fill in for the shoes of a natural parent if the natural parent is unwilling or unable to fulfill his parental responsibilities, framed the jurisdiction and response of this court – thus it not only took cognizance of juvenile justice cases, but also ruled on what actions could be taken in the best interests of the children. In early practice, juvenile justice courts threw out due process considerations as these proceedings were not considered punitive but rehabilitative.

These courts also had jurisdiction over status offenses, such as vagrancy and truancy. Because of the focus on the parens patriae role played by the juvenile justice court, judges were allowed much leeway not only in the evaluation of cases but also in the sentencing of those brought before them. This system is markedly different from that employed in criminal courts because in criminal courts the evaluation of cases are done on strict considerations of law, with a heavy emphasis on due process, as the judgments of criminal courts are considered punitive in character.

Moreover, the parens patriae function was not as infused in the criminal justice system as it was in the juvenile justice system, and as such judges in criminal cases are essentially trial technicians that instructs a jury of one’s peers as to what evidence may and may not be allowed in evidence while in juvenile courts, because of the fatherly role these judges had to play, judges of juvenile courts would be solely responsible for the evaluation of evidence and determination of guilt.