Juvenile offenders are judged as delinquent and not as guilty. The independent nature of the juvenile justice system has several options in sentencing the offenders at its disposal. These sentences comprise of sentences that are either community based or residential. The basic character of the juvenile justice system is based on the delinquent’s offending history and the severity of the offence. This system prefers to rehabilitate the offenders rather than make them undergo detention (Juvenile Justice: A Century of Change , 1999).
The juvenile court can send a delinquent to a facility or community program and can compel the delinquent to remain in that facility or program till such time it feels necessary, till the delinquent has been rehabilitated or until the delinquent attains majority. There is also a provision to invoke a restitution module. The delinquent can be sentenced for a specific period of time which is proportional to the intensity of the offense and the past record of criminal activities. Some defendants may be given parole so that they reintegrate into the mainstream of society.
Such parole is based on surveillance and the monitoring of illegal conduct (Juvenile Justice: A Century of Change , 1999). The US juvenile justice system has proven to be quite effective in correcting juvenile offenders. It is difficult for offenders to escape after the commission of a crime. Some people are of the opinion that the US juvenile justice system is a breeding ground for gangs, drugs and adult crime, which is incorrect. It constitutes a powerful method of rectifying the delinquent behavior of the children. It provides juvenile offenders and their victims with a broad spectrum judicial perspective (Bilchik).
Under this juvenile justice system, probation, corrective treatment and restitution are widely used in order to correct juvenile delinquents. Many juvenile delinquents who had been dealt with by this system did not repeat such delinquent activities. Fifty four percent of male and seventy three percent of female delinquents did not return to crime on new referral. However, there are certain issues that require reform, for instance, the system has to take extra pains so that it can effectively deal with the increasing number of offenders who are either female or who are girls below the age of thirteen years (Bilchik).
The past twenty years have been witness to an enormous increase in the arrests of juveniles who indulge in violent crime. In order to amend this situation, a number of states have changed their laws in such a manner that some juvenile crimes no longer fall under the purview of the juvenile courts. An instance of this is the direct file waiver statute, which permits prosecutors to charge juveniles in the criminal court for certain crimes. Nevertheless, prosecutors tend to accord greater importance to the interests of the state than to the juvenile, particularly in respect of the very serious crimes (Steiner & Wright, Summer2006 ).
Such direct file statutes, which are not subject to review, have had a pronounced effect on crime and have been instrumental in producing a decline in juvenile crime. Moreover, since the year 2003, juvenile crime has reduced dramatically. Some of the reasons suggested for such reduction are that juvenile offenders have been deterred by the fact that they could be tried in a criminal court and not a juvenile court, due to direct file waiver statutes (Steiner & Wright, Summer2006 ).
However, such is not the case and it can be contended that the effect of these direct file waiver statutes on juvenile crime has been insignificant. The only exception to this had been the state of Michigan. In the rest of the states that had implemented the direct file waiver statutes, either there was no effect on juvenile crime or there had been an increase in such crime. As such there had been no reduction in juvenile crimes that could be classified as homicide or manslaughter, in all these states, subsequent to the implementation of the direct file waiver statutes.
Therefore, the conclusion to be reached is that the decline in juvenile arrest rates, nationally, was due to other reasons (Steiner & Wright, Summer2006 ). The effect of these statutes is that a juvenile offender will be tried and prosecuted in a criminal court and not in the juvenile court. In the process of enacting these statutes, some crimes have been placed beyond the jurisdiction of the juvenile courts. As such there is a dearth of research on the deterrent effect of such legislation (Steiner & Wright, Summer2006 ).