Critical analysis Essay Example

  • Category:
  • Document type:
  • Level:
  • Page:
  • Words:


Critical Analysis

Critical Analysis

The key objective of the juvenile justice system is mainly rehabilitation instead of punishment. The state laws, which create juvenile courts and grant ways of handling juvenile delinquents, have widely been endorsed by the courts as an adequate addition of police power in ensuring the welfare and safety of young persons (Mears, Hay & Gertz et al., 2007). The ‘parens patriae’ doctrine authorizes the state to legislate for the maintenance, custody, care, and protection of children within its jurisdiction. The Federal Juvenile Delinquency Act has set rules that state laws should abide by regarding juvenile court punishments and procedures. The Act defines juvenile delinquency as any act that is otherwise a crime, however, committed by an individual who is under 18 years of age (Merlo & Benekos, 2003). When juveniles are suspected of contravening a criminal law, the procedure that is followed is very different from the one used in trying adults in the typical criminal cases.

Every state has put in place a special juvenile court system for young persons who get in trouble with the law; however, there are statutes that apply to all states (Greenwood, 2008). Every state has juvenile courts for dealing with minors that are accused of criminal statute violation. The procedures are usually civil rather than criminal and hence rather than being charged formally with a criminal act, the young delinquents are charged of committing a criminal action (Grisso, Steinberg, & Woolard, et al., 2003). Juvenile cases usually start once the probation officer or prosecutor files a civil petition, alleging a minor has violated a criminal law and requiring that the court determines that the young person is a criminal. In case the judge approves such allegations and makes a delinquency evaluation, the minor usually come under the court extensive control (Redding, 2003). The juvenile courts usually have the authority of taking action that they deem to be in the best interest of the juvenile offenders.

. Suspect juvenile offenders also have a right to a phone call-they are allowed to make at least one phone call when they are in custody and not expected to be released quickly. The minor can call a guardian or a parent, who can in turn call an attorney; however, the minor can also call an attorney directly. By demanding to speak with an attorney or a parent, the suspected offenders usually invoke their Miranda rights (Johnson, 2002). Therefore, in case the police officers ignore the offender request to call an attorney or their parent, all the things that the minors says to the police officer is usually not admissible in a juvenile court. These due process rights of the juvenile ensure that the rights of the juvenile are guaranteed.Kurlychek & Brian, 2004). In addition, they include the advantage against self-incrimination, no (or limited) right to a jury trial and the rights to have charges proved beyond “a reasonable doubt.” In order to search and arrest a minor suspected of committing a felony, police officers should have a probable cause however, public officers in quasi-parental association with minors such as school personnel, require only “reasonable suspicion” of wrongdoing instead of a probable cause for temporary detaining and searching a minor (, the right to notice of the charges as well as the right to counselthe right to cross-examine and confront witnessesVarious due process rights need to be observed while dealing with minors suspected of violating a criminal statute (Robinson & Darley, 2004). They include probable cause required to search a minor, right to a phone call, no right to bail,

preponderance of evidence” standard (Brink, 2004). . The minors usually have a right to counsel and in case they cannot afford one, a state appointed counsel represents them. The minor is also supposed to be provided with a delinquency charges notice. Minors also have the right to cross-examine or confront witnesses-they have the chance of questions the witnesses through the attorney and challenge their testimony. They also have the right of asserting their Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination in juvenile court proceedings-they authorities cannot force them to testify against themselves. In most juvenile delinquency cases, most states do not allow delinquency cases, and in the few states that allow such trials mostly, they are limited to only some specific juvenile cases (Levitt, 1998). The Supreme Court has also ruled that in case a juvenile offender faces adjudication or incarceration as “delinquent” after juvenile court proceeding, the state has to prove the charges against the young offender “beyond reasonable doubt.” However, in case such penalties are not an issue, the state is only required to provide evidence for the allegations through a “Carrie & Repucci, 2001)Juveniles do not usually have a legitimate right of seeking a bail; however, most of them are released to their guardians or parents before they are arraigned in the juvenile court (

Minors who are suspected of violating a criminal statute usually encounter the law enforcement officers in various ways. Whereas police officers arrest some minors, school officials of parents refer others to the law enforcement officers. In spite of the way police officers are informed on a potential juvenile case, they may chose to deal with the juvenile in various ways. They may issue a warning –this is where they detain the minor, issue them with a warning, and then release them, an approach also referred to as the “counseled and released” option. Secondly, the officers may hold the minor until their parent or guardian arrives, the minor is detained by the police officer, issued with a warning, and later released to the guardian or parent. Thirdly, the officers may place the juvenile in custody and later refer him or her to a juvenile court (Levitt, 1998).

In case a juvenile is referred to the juvenile court by the police officers, a probation officer (juvenile court intake officer) or a prosecutor usually takes over the case (Carr, Logio & Shana, 2003). The prosecutor or probation officer usually has three options: to petition the case or file formal charges, to handle the matter informally or to dismiss the case. The intake officer or prosecutor usually consider various factors while deciding how to proceed, for instance, the juvenile past record, juvenile age, severity of the offense, juvenile gender, the strength of the evidence presented, juvenile social history, and the juvenile parents ability to control his or her behavior. In an average year, about 25% of the juvenile cases are handled in an informal manner whereas about 20% are referred to juvenile court intake officers. The rest of the cases usually go through formal proceedings (Collier, 1998).

In cases where the probation officer or prosecutor opts to proceed informally with the juvenile case, the minor has to appear before a judge or probation officer (Kupchik, Fagan, & Liberman, 2003). Even though there are no formal charges entered against such juveniles, they are usually asked to do one or more of the following tasks; enter probation, perform community service, pay a fine, repay the victim for damages, attend after-school classes, attend counseling or listen to a stern lecture. These strategies usually help to divert first time delinquents from more encounters with the justice system (Greenwood, 2008). On the other hand, they are too lenient and the minor may engage in consequent criminal acts. In case juvenile neglect or abuse is suspected in a certain juvenile case, the juvenile court may start legal proceedings in order to remove the minor from the custody of the parents or guardians. This ensures full rehabilitation of the juvenile offender.

When a probation officer or prosecutor opts to proceed formally, they usually file a petition in a juvenile court (Carr, Logio & Shana, 2003). The juvenile is then formally charged or arraigned in court where a juvenile court judge or referee hears the case. In various cases, the judge may opt to have the juvenile tried in an adult criminal court. The judge also determines whether the juvenile should be released or detained before his first hearing. In most of the cases that are processed formally, the minor is usually allowed to stay at home while he or she awaits the hearing (Maloney, Romig & Armstrong, 1988). In case the juvenile remains in the juvenile court, he or she may enter into a plea agreement, the judge may “divert” the case, or the judge may hold an adjudicatory hearing. In cases where minors enter into a plea agreement, the agreement is usually dependent on the minor observance of certain conditions, for instance, as part of the agreement, the minor may be required to compensate the victim for the harm, or damages, obey curfews, or attend counseling. Such strategies usually serve to deter the juvenile from committing crime in the future and to reinstate the victim. In cases where the judge opts to divert a juvenile case, he or she usually retain jurisdiction over the case while the juvenile performs various acts (for instance, payment of restitution or community service) or undergoes a recommended program (for instance, counseling). In case the juvenile fails to fulfill such obligations, the judge may reinstate the formal criminal charges (Carr, Logio & Shana, 2003). When a judge decided to hold an adjudicatory hearing or where the case goes to trial, both sides usually present evidence and like in a criminal trial, the attorneys argue the case. Such hearings are usually heard before a judge and not a jury. At the hearing conclusion, the judge usually determines whether a minor is guilty or not. Such a delinquent ruling is also referred to as “sustaining the petition.”

When a delinquency ruling is made, a probation officer evaluates the minor, orders diagnostic tests or psychological assessment if needed, and then makes various recommendations during the disposition hearing. The judge usually decides on the various things, which are in the best interest of the minor, for instance, probation, victim reimbursement, confinement in a juvenile detention facility or counseling (Fagan, 1996). The minor may also be required to make periodic court appearances or post disposition hearings to enable the judge to monitor his or her behavior and the progress made.

There are wide-ranging disposition orders or sentencing options used in juvenile courts and which are imposed on youth offenders or juveniles who are found guilty of violation a criminal statute (Redding, 2003). The disposition options usually fall into two groups: non-incarceration and incarceration. Probation is one of the commonly used forms of non-incarceration in the juvenile justice system. In most cases where judges orders a delinquent to be incarcerated as a penalty, they may order the house arrest or home confinement-this is where a judge orders the juvenile to stay at home with various exceptions such as attending counseling, school or work. The judge may also instruct the juvenile to be placed with other persons instead of their guardian or parents, for instance, in a foster home, in a group or with a relative. These strategies usually serve to prevent the juvenile from committing crimes in the future and also to rehabilitate him or her fully. According to Burruss and Kempf-Leonard (2002, p. 37), “out-of-home placement is more likely to occur if a youth have an attorney, even when other relevant legal and individual factors are the same.” The judge may also send the juvenile to a juvenile detention facility or juvenile hall for a short-term stay. Some juveniles may also be put on probation after a few months in a juvenile facility. The judge may also send the juvenile to a secured juvenile facility, which is meant for long term stays (Leiber & Boggess, 2012). In various cases, the judge usually send juvenile to adult jails such as state prison or country jail. In some states, judges usually send the juveniles to a juvenile detention facility and then order them to be transferred to an adult jail when they reach the majority age. This is referred to as a “blended sentence” as the minor serves time in both an adult and juvenile facility (Garland, Melton & Hass, 2012). They further argued that this sentencing enables the court to “impose sanctions in the adult correctional system without the youth being processed by adult courts.” (p. 135).

The judges also use non-incarceration options for the juveniles, for instance, they have a wide discretion to fashion a rehabilitation program or sentence that suits the juvenile needs (Merrall, Dhami & Bird, 2010). The non-incarceration orders usually include fine, counseling, verbal warning, community service, electronic monitoring, and probation. The juvenile sentence may be as simple as a verbal warning, however most often, the judges usually require juveniles to attend counseling sessions. The judge may also order the juvenile to pay compensation to the victim or a fine to the government. In case of community services, the judge usually orders the juvenile to work for several hours in service to the local community (Cooley, 2011). In the case of electronic monitoring, the minor is obligated to put on an ankle or wrist bracelet, which helps in knowing, where the juvenile is at all times. The judge may also order a juvenile to enter probation. All these non-incarceration options may be used alone or in combination, for instance the minor may be asked to perform community service, attend counseling, as well as pay a fine as a penalty for a single offense, this helps to rehabilitate the juvenile.

Judges in juvenile courts commonly use probation. This is a supervision program, which the freedom of the young delinquent is limited and activities restricted. In an average year, approximately half of all the juveniles that are judged guilty of criminal violation receive probation as the most restraining sentence (Leiber & Peck, 2012). The specific probation terms usually differ from case to case and from state to state. Normally, juveniles are required to obey both the probation general terms as well as all additional requirements, which are tailored to the specific case. The parents are usually expected by the court to assist the juveniles in fulfilling the probation orders conditions. The conditions may include curfews, counseling, attendance at a certain school, community service, and orders the minors not to associate with various persons (for instance in cases of suspected gang members). The juveniles also have to attend a special day treatment program, which provides educational services and additional monitoring as part of the probation (Wilson & Hoge, 2013). The educational services may include substance abuse education, social skills building and anger management classes. Probation provides the juvenile with a chance to be in the “outside” world whilst still under the justice system supervision and subject to immediate incarceration in case they violate probation terms. It helps in reducing overcrowding problems in prisons and jails.

All juveniles on probation usually have a probation officer whose role is to monitor observance of the court disposition order (Leiber & Peck, 2012). The probation officer meets the juvenile periodically and the juvenile guardian or parents have to report any violation of the probation to the officer (Peters, 2011). This enables the parents and the probation officers to work together in helping the juvenile to fulfill their probation conditions (Cook & Gordon, 2012). In case a juvenile violates the set probation conditions, the probation officer notifies the juvenile court by filing a “violation of probation” notice and when the judge finds the juvenile guilty of violating the probation terms, the judge can cancel the probation option and use a harsher sentence, for instance incarcerating the juvenile in a detention facility (Leiber & Peck, 2012).

Juveniles usually have the right of appealing a court disposition order following a delinquency finding. In case the circumstances of a case change, the juvenile may ask the court to modify the disposition order. The judges in most juvenile courts usually have a wide discretion to change the original orders in order to serve the needs of the juvenile in a better manner and to ensure their best interests. For a person to be considered appropriate for the juvenile court, he or she has to be a “juvenile” under the state statutes. A juvenile age should be less than eighteen years in order to use the juvenile courts in most states; however, in a few states it is set at seventeen or sixteen whereas in Wyoming it is set at nineteen. There is also established minimum age for a juvenile to be eligible for the juvenile court. In nearly all states, children below seven years are considered incapable of forming a guilty mind or telling the difference between right and wrong. As a result, they are excused from responsibility of any acts that they commit and children are required to compensate for acts of such young children.

Juveniles’ cases are usually transferred to adult criminal courts via a process known as waiver-that is when the judge chooses to waive any protection provided by the juvenile court (Redding, 2003). Most of the juvenile cases, which are transferred to adult courts, are usually very serious crimes or repeat juvenile offender cases. A juvenile is usually afforded more constitutional protection when tried in an adult court however there are also distinct disadvantages such as possibility of being detained in an adult prison and receiving more severe sentence such as life sentences. Transferring young offender to a criminal court ensures that serious crimes are dealt with appropriately and lighter punishments are not accorded for serious crimes such as murder. However, Fagan (2008) argued that such transfers of young offenders to criminal courts usually expose them to harsh as well as toxic punishments, which have a bad impact of escalating criminal actions. A waiver usually enables the justice system to incapacitate chronic offenders (Barry, 2004). The waiver has led to harsher penalties as well as de-emphasis of consideration of the individual juvenile offender (Barry, 2004). The juvenile offenders have to be no less than sixteen to be allowed a waiver to an adult court in most states, nonetheless in some states, juveniles as young as thirteen can be subjected to a waiver petition. There are various factors, which may prompt juvenile courts to allow a waiver petition and transfer young offender cases to an adult court. They comprise a long juvenile record, unsuccessful past rehabilitation efforts, and in case where a minor has been charged with a very serious offense, is older, and when he or she has worked with juvenile offenders for a long period. The prosecutor may inform the judge that the minor has been judged a number of times in the past and that the interventions that the juvenile court had ordered did not prevent the youth from committing other crimes. Brannen, Salekin and Zapf (2006) noted that three factors are considered in evaluation of juvenile offenders and in dispositional decision-making; treatment amenability, level of maturity or sophistication and the potential risk of dangerousness. Transferring the juvenile offenders to adult courts cause the youth to generally exhibit more recidivism relative to similar offenders retained in juvenile court (Myers, 2003). This shows that transferring the juvenile to adult courts is not a good rehabilitative option and increases the offenders’ chances to commit crime when released from the court.


Barry, F. (2004). Juvenile Tranfer. Criminology & Public Policy, 3(4), 599-603

Brannen, D., Salekin, R. & Zapf, P. Salekin, K., Kubak, F. & Decoster, J. (2006) Transfer to Adult Court: A national study of how juvenile court judges weight pertinent Kent criteria, Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, 12(3), 332-355

Brink, D. (2004). Immaturity, Normative Competence, and Juvenile Transfer: How (Not) to Punish Minors for Major Crimes, Texas Law Review, 82, 1555–85.

Burruss, G. & Kempf-Leonard, K. (2002). The questionable advantage of defense counsel in juvenile court. Justice Quarterly, 19(1), 37-68

Carr, P., Logio, K., & Shana, M.(2003). Keep Me Informed: What Matters for Victims as They Navigate the Juvenile Criminal Justice System in Philadelphia.International Review of Victimology, 10, 117–136.

Carrie, S. & Repucci, D. (2001). Criminal Decision Making: The Development of Adolescent Judgment, Criminal Responsibility, and Culpability. Law and Human Behavior, 25, 45– 61.

Collier, L. (1998). Juvenile Crime and Punishment. Journal of Political Economy, 106, 1156- 1185

Cooley, V. (2011). Community-Based Sanctions for Juvenile Offenders: Issues in Policy Implementation. Criminal Justice Policy Review, 22(1), 65-89

Cook, A. & Gordon, J. (2012). Get Him Out of My House: Parental Competencies of Juvenile Probationers. Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice, 10(2), 205-223

Fagan, J. (2008). Juvenile Crime and Criminal Justice. Resolving Border Disputes, 18(2), 81-118

Fagan, J. (1996). The comparative advantage of juvenile versus criminal court sanctions on

recidivism among adolescent felony offenders. Law and Policy, 18, 77-113.

Feld, B., & Schaefer, S. (2010). The Right to Counsel in Juvenile Court: The Conundrum of Attorneys as an Aggravating Factor at Disposition. Justice Quartery, 27(5), 713-741

Garland, B., Melton, M., & Hass, A. (2012). Public Opinion on Juvenile Blended Sentencing. Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice, 10(2), 135-154

Greenwood, P. (2008). Prevention and Intervention Programs for Juvenile Offenders. Juvenile Justice, 18(2), 185-210

Grisso, S., Steinberg, L., Woolard, J., Cauffman, E., Scott, E., & Graham, S. (2003). Juveniles’ competence to stand trial: A comparison of adolescents’ and adults’

capacities as trial defendants. Law and Human Behavior, 27, 333-363.

Johnson, M. (2002). Juvenile Miranda Case Law in New Jersey: The Relevance of Recording All Custodial Questioning. Journal of Psychiatry and Law, 30, 3–57.

Kupchik, J., Fagan, J., & Liberman, A. (2003). Punishment, Proportionality and Jurisdictional Transfer of Adolescent Offenders: A Test of the Leniency Gap Hypothesis. Stanford Law and Policy Review, 14, 57-83

Kurlychek, M., & Brian, J. (2004). The Juvenile Penalty: A Comparison of Juvenile and Adult Sentencing Outcomes in Criminal Court. Criminology, 42, 485–517.

Leiber, M., & Boggess, L. (2012). Race, Probation Violations and Structured Secure Detention Decision Making in Three Jurisdictions, Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice, 10(4), 333- 353

Leiber, M., & Peck, J. (2012). Probation Violations and Juvenile Justice Decision Making: Implication for Blacks and Hispanics, Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice, 11(1), 60-78

Levitt, S. (1998). Juvenile Crime and Punishment,” Journal of Political Economy 106 (1998), 1156–85.

Maloney, D., Romig, D., & Armstrong,T. (1988). Juvenile Probation: The Balanced Approach. Juvenile and Family
Court Journal, 39 (3).

Mears, D., Hay, C., Gertz, M. & Mancini, C. (2007). Public Opinion and the Foundation of the Juvenile Court. Criminology, 45(1), 223-257

Merlo, A., & Benekos, P. (2003). Defining Juvenile Justice in the 21st Century.Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice, 1, 276–288.

Merrall, E., Dhami, M. & Bird, S. (2010). Exploring Methods to Investigate Sentencing Decisions. Evaluation Review, 34(3), 185-219

Myers, D. (2003). The Recidivism of Violent Youths in Juvenile and Adult Court: A consideration of Selection Bias. Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice, 1(1), 79-101

Peters, C. (2011). Social Work and Juvenile Probation: Historical Tensions and Contemporary Convergences, 56(4), 355-365

1(2), 128–55. Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice,Redding, R. (2003). The Effects of Adjudicating and Sentencing Juveniles as Adults.

Robinson, P., & Darley, J. (2004). Does Criminal Law Deter? A Behavioural Science Investigation, Oxford Journal of Criminal Law, 24, 173–205.

Wilson, H., & Hoge, R. (2013). Diverting out Attention to what Works: Evaluating the Effectiveness of a Youth Diversion Program. Youth Violence and Juvenile System, 11(3)