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Juvenile Court Proceedings

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. The juvenile justice system is an institution in society that is granted certain powers and responsibilities. It faces several different tasks, among the most important is maintaining order and preserving constitutional rights. The conflict arises when public expectation of order collides with the right of young people to be on the street. The police have a high level of contact with people under the age of 18. UCR data indicate that juveniles account for about 17% of all arrests and nearly 29% of arrests for Index crimes. When juveniles "hang out" on corners or ride around town, they create citizen conflict, regarding the use of public space. The term juvenile delinquent was established so that young lawbreakers could avoid being classified in legal records as criminals. The laws were designed to provide treatment, rather than punishment, for juvenile offenders. The justice system is trying to change the way it deals with the American youth. Juveniles know that much of the law is written for adults therefore abuse the system. Kids are aware that if they are caught shoplifting the punishment for such crime would be a slap on the wrist. Furthermore they know that unless they commit a serious offense such as murder, rape or armed robbery the punishment will be light.

The establishment of protective measures for guarding the privacy of youth offenders can be traced back to the separation of juvenile courts from criminal courts in 1899. The first juvenile court was established in Chicago, IL in 1899. (Clapp 1995). It was designed to spare juveniles from harsh proceeding of adult court, conditions of adult jails and penitentiaries, and the label of criminal. That is still the goal of juvenile court today.

In the following pages I will discuss the juvenile court process in South Carolina and how it compares to the adult court process. I will also discuss the benefits and disadvantages of juvenile court from the perspective of a youth offender. I will conclude with my recommendations for the future of the Juvenile Justice system. It is imperative to the future of our world that the community and the juvenile court system come together to make the juvenile justice system effective for juveniles.

Referral to Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ)

The first step in the process of South Carolina juvenile justice is a referral to the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ). Juveniles usually enter the juvenile justice system when they are taken into custody by law enforcement or when they are referred to DJJ by a Circuit Solicitor or a school. At this stage a juvenile is usually interviewed by personnel at a DJJ county office. The interview consists of questioning the juvenile about his or her personal life, such as drug or alcohol problems, home life, gang involvement, and a medical evaluation. Law enforcement might also elect to send the juvenile to a South Carolina juvenile detention center, pending a hearing.

After the county office or detention center personnel have interviewed a juvenile, DJJ makes recommendations to the Circuit Solicitor's Office regarding the case. The Solicitor has a number of options available when deciding how to pursue a case. A Solicitor may choose to divert a juvenile to a community program such as:

Ð'* A drug court or juvenile arbitration program

Ð'* Require the juvenile to make restitution for the offense.

Ð'* Sign a "Behavioral Contract" that outlines certain conditions a juvenile must meet.

Ð'* Enter into a Community Service program.

Ð'* Solicitors may also choose to proceed with prosecution or to dismiss a case entirely.

All of these programs are designed to give the juvenile an opportunity to go back into society and try again.

If a Solicitor chooses to prosecute, the next stage of the process involves the family court. Family court is a court convened to make orders in respect of children. ( A family court judge has to decide the guilt or innocence of a juvenile and also decides the sentencing of a juvenile. Often a judge will review a DJJ evaluation of the child before making his final ruling. The evaluation involves a psychological, social, and educational test either in the community or at one of the DJJ's evaluation center. This evaluation helps the judge decide how to proceed in the best interest of the child.

A family court judge may fine the juvenile not delinquent or not guilty or adjudicated delinquent or guilt. If found delinquent the juvenile may be put on probation. Probation is defined as "a period of supervised visits with a juvenile in their community." ( DJJ probation officers monitor conditions of the probation, as stipulated by the judge. A probation officer may interview a juvenile's parents, school personnel, and others to determine the juvenile's behavior in school and at home. Typical requirements of probation include:

Ð'* No further offenses

Ð'* Curfews

Ð'* Community Service

Ð'* School attendance

Another option if the juvenile is found delinquent is that they may be given a fixed amount of time in a juvenile detention center or an indeterminate commitment. Indeterminate commitment is where a juvenile is sentence to a juvenile facility for an undetermined amount of time not to exceed his or her 21st birthday.

Upon commitment, a juvenile will be given a time range to serve in the juvenile detention facility. This range is based on the severity of the juvenile offense and his history of previous offenses. These ranges can run anywhere from 1-3 months up to 36-54 months. The judge uses these guidelines and the evaluation of the juvenile's behavior to determine the length of incarceration.

The Department of Juvenile Justice may keep a child incarcerated beyond their 21st birthday, depending on their behavior while incarcerated. They may also parole juveniles prior to their minimum guideline for exceptional behavior and progress. A juvenile may also be granted a conditional or unconditional release. A conditional release might involve requiring the juvenile to complete a local aftercare program or a program at a juvenile boot camp.

Referral to South Carolina Department of Corrections

The first step in the adult court process is the determination that has a crime has been committed. A determination of a crime may be made



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