The Juvenile Justice System

The Department of Juvenile Justice has been around in the country since the late eighteen hundreds, but it has been modified greatly over the years. Juvenile justice is the area of criminal law applicable to persons not old enough to be held years. Juvenile law is mainly governed by state law and most states have enacted a juvenile code. The main goal of the juvenile justice system is rehabilitation rather than punishment. (Juvenile Justice) This system has been around so long because our society strongly feels that juveniles are not psychologically mature enough to realize that their actions can have life altering consequences.

The Juvenile Justice System is important because how a society trains and treats its youth will definitely affect the future of that society. In 2003, 18% of all persons under age 18 lived at or below the poverty level. (NCJJ)  Since so many juveniles are victims of poverty, they become restless especially when they are forced to see other youths with lives full of possessions, informational opportunities, and educational opportunities. This is not just a petty jealousy, but the idea of knowing that because one is poor and opportunities are scarce, it is unlikely that the cycle of poverty will not be broken.

This frustration can be turned into a life of violence and crime just to have the things that the majority have and even take for granted. There are several things that are to blame for the problem. Free educational opportunities and job training for all, if provided for by the federal government instead of wasting money on frivolous projects, could change the lives of juveniles who are doomed for a life of crime. Recreational opportunities are scarce in a home that is in poverty.

Minorities are also victims of the Juvenile Justice System as well as any Justice System. The NCLR, the largest national Latino civil rights organization, commends Building Blocks for Youth Initiative for Est. issuing a Call to Action on Behalf of the Latino and Latina Youth in the U. S. juvenile justice system," the largest national Latino civil rights organization, commends Building Blocks for Youth Initiative for issuing A Call to Action on Behalf of the Latino and Latina Youth in the U. S. juvenile justice system. (Arboleda)

It is not just Hispanics who suffer in today’s Justice System, but all minorities. The plight of African American youth is the worse. Nationwide, African-Americans represent 15% of the population, 26% of juvenile arrests, 44% of youth who are detained, 46% of the youth who are judicially waived to criminal court, and 58% of the youth admitted to state prisons. (Disproportionate Minority Confinement)   Prejudices and poverty have kept minorities at a disadvantage for years. That is why the Juvenile Justice System is a positive force in our country.

If minorities were not under the laws of Juvenile Justice, they could end up in prison for years or the rest of their lives even though they were victims of poverty and a lack of opportunities. However, the Juvenile Justice System is in fact too easy on youth who have committed crimes. According to thestatement from Cornell Law, juveniles are not responsible for their criminal acts. Why not? Children under the age of ten might not fully understand their actions, but those over that age know full well what they are doing.

Many agree that juveniles are not punished appropriately. S. 10, the Violent and Repeat Juvenile Offender Act of 1997 of Alaska was to allow for toughening the laws for youths. The new mandates require states to: •    allow delinquents to have contact with convicted adults for up to 72 hours; •    allow juveniles 14 years of age to be prosecuted as adults for serious violent felonies; •    require non-violent and non-serious youth offender records to be sent to schools, prospective colleges, and the FBI; and, establish graduated sanctions.

(Juvenile Justice Legislation Fact Sheet) That would be enough to deter many juveniles to not break the law. It is true that knowledge is power, but why shouldn’t the records of juvenile offenders be sent to schools, prospective colleges and the FBI? This is especially true for schools that provide dorm living. Most people would want to know with whom they were living, and parents would particularly want this information. There are now many credible online universities that would provide the necessary education for those individuals to acquire a profession.

It would certainly make a difference in the decisions that a juvenile made if he/she had to live with the choices that he/she makes before the age of eighteen. Juveniles many times do not see any deterrents to commit crimes because punishments are too easy, records are sealed and separation from the adult population in prison has made the Juvenile Justice System flawed. The injustice for minority youth has been lessened by the Juvenile Justice System and that has been positive. However, it has gotten so lax that juveniles no longer fear the law.

Injustices for minorities are tragic and should be dealt with by society. It is not a good reason to keep a system that is so flawed that it is teaching the youth of today that it is acceptable to commit crimes and not respect the laws of the land.

Works Cited

Arboleda, Angela. U. S. JUVENILE JUSTICE SYSTEM FAILS HISPANIC YOUTH. NCLR. 18, July, 2002, < http://www. nclr. org/content/news/detail/2282> “Disproportionate Minority Confinement. ” National Center for Juvenile Justice. 31, May, 2007