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Juvenile Vs Adult Courts

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Juvenile and Adult Courts: A Comparative Analysis

Although the current juvenile justice system in many states now closely resembles the adult criminal justice system, they remain two separate systems of justice, founded on different philosophies. Generally speaking, while the adult criminal justice system emphasizes the punishment of criminals, the juvenile justice system is based on the rehabilitation of juvenile offenders. In the early twentieth century, the Progressives began to perceive children in a new manner. Industrialization and modernization led to the view that children were corruptible innocents whose upbringing required greater structure than had previously been regarded as prerequisite to adulthood. Social scientists reported that because children are not fully developed, either mentally or physically, they are not accountable for their actions in the same way as adults are accountable. Criminal behavior by children, it was believed, resulted from external forces such as impoverished living conditions or parental neglect. Juvenile criminality was seen as a kind of youthful illness, which possibly could be cured by relocating the juvenile to a better family life in a rural setting.

Differences in Juvenile Court and Adult Criminal Court

There are many differences in juvenile court and in adult court. In the juvenile justice system rehabilitation and treatment, in addition to community protection, are considered to be primary and viable goals. In criminal adult court rehabilitation is not considered a primary goal in the criminal justice system, which operates under the assumption that criminal sanctions should be proportional to the offense. Deterrence is seen as a successful outcome of punishment (Vermont Judiciary, 2004). Limitations are placed on public access to juvenile records because of the belief that juvenile offenders can be successfully rehabilitated, and to avoid their unnecessary stigmatization. Court proceedings may be confidential to protect privacy. Open public access to adult criminal records is required, and all court proceedings are open to the public. The juvenile justice system follows a psychological casework approach, taking into account a detailed assessment of the youth's history in order to meet his or her specific needs (Vermont Judiciary, 2004). The juvenile offender faces a hearing, rather than a trial, which incorporates his social history as well as legal factors. Defendants in the adult criminal justice system are put on trial, which is based largely on legal facts. Law enforcement has the option of preventative detention. Detaining a youth for his or her protection or the community's protection is also allowed in the juvenile system. Defendants have the right to apply for bond or bail in the adult criminal justice system. A juvenile offender is judged delinquent rather than guilty. Because of the individualized nature of the juvenile justice system, sentencing varies and may cover a wide range of community-based and residential options. The disposition is based on the individual's offense history and the severity of the offense, and includes a significant rehabilitation component. The disposition can be for an unspecified period of time; the court can send a youth to a certain facility or program until it is determined he is rehabilitated, or until he reaches the age of majority (Vermont Judiciary, 2004). The disposition may also include a restitution component and can be directed at people other than the offender, for example his parents. A defendant is found innocent or guilty. The offender is sentenced to a specified period of time which is determined by the severity of the offense, as well as the defendant's criminal history. Parole combines surveillance with activities to reintegrate the juvenile into the community in the juvenile justice system. In the adult criminal court system parole is primarily based on surveillance and monitoring of illegal behavior (Vermont Judiciary, 2004).

What is a Juvenile Delinquent?

Originally, the term juvenile delinquent referred to any child found to be within the jurisdiction of a juvenile court. It included children accused of status offenses and children in need of state assistance. The term delinquent was not intended to be derogatory: its literal meaning suggested a failure of parents and society to raise the child, not a failure of the child. The modern trend is to separate and label juveniles based on the reason for their juvenile court appearance and the facts of their case. The mission of juvenile courts differs from that of adult courts. Juvenile courts do not have the authority to order punishment. Instead, they respond to juvenile misconduct and misfortune by ordering rehabilitative measures or assistance from government agencies. The juvenile court response to misconduct generally is more lenient than the adult court response.

Juvenile court proceedings are conducted in private, whereas adult proceedings are public. Also, whereas adult criminal courts focus on the offense committed and appropriate punishment, juvenile courts focus on the child and seek to meet the child's needs through rehabilitation, supervision, and treatment. Adult courts may deprive adults of their liberty only for the violation of criminal laws. Juvenile courts, by contrast, are empowered to control and confine juveniles based on a broad range of behavior and circumstances.

First Juvenile Court

The basic framework created by the first juvenile court act is largely intact. Rehabilitation, not punishment, remains the overarching aim of the juvenile justice system, and juvenile courts still retain jurisdiction over a wide range of juveniles. The most notable difference between the original model and current juvenile law is that juveniles now have more procedural rights in court. These rights include the right to an attorney and the right to be free from self-incrimination.

State Juvenile Code

All states now maintain a juvenile code, or set of laws relating specifically to juveniles. The state codes regulate a variety of concerns, including the acts and circumstances that bring juveniles within the jurisdiction of the juvenile court, the procedures for juvenile courts, the rights of juveniles, and the range of judicial responses to misconduct or to the need for services. Juvenile law is largely a matter of state law. On the federal level, Congress maintains in the U.S. Code a chapter on juvenile delinquency. The federal juvenile laws are similar to the state juvenile laws, but they deal solely with persons under the age of eighteen who are accused of committing a federal crime, a relatively minor part of the juvenile justice system.

Juvenile courts



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