Juvenile Justice Policy Reform Essay

991 words - 4 pages

Juvenile Justice Policy ReformIt is a disturbing fact that the number of delinquency cases handled by juvenile courts increased 43% between 1985 and 2000 (Office of Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevention, 2000). According to Snyder (2000), "Delinquency offences are acts committed by juveniles that would be crimes if committed by adults." (OJJDP, 2000). Here is the question to discuss. What causes these youth to behave the way to get involved in the illegal acts, and who and how to deal with this problem? Indeed, this paper will discuss about the approaches and legal mechanisms that address the issue of juvenile delinquency.Apparently, juvenile justice policy has been swinging between different approaches throughout its history of development and implementation. (Jenson & Howard, 1998). According to Bernard (1992) the first institutions to treat juveniles separately from adults was established in 1825 (as cited in Jenson & Howard, 1998). Then, in 1899, the first juvenile court was opened that processed juveniles' cases. From there on, the juvenile justice system was gradually putting an emphasis on rehabilitative approach until 1960s adopting social casework and psychotherapy (Jenson & Howard, 1998). During the 1960s, legal rights for juveniles were expanded to due process consideration, which include the rights to counsel and protection against self-incrimination. Consequently, juvenile court procedures became similar to criminal justice proceedings (Jenson & Howard, 1998). In addition, as it was pointed out by Krisberg and Austin in 1993, "state training schools for delinquents had become large, inefficient and costly" (as cited in Jenson and Howard, 1998). Martinson (1974) stated that the institutions were ineffective in reducing recidivism (as cited in Jenson & Howard, 1998). Obviously, this is when the concepts of deinstitutionlization and community-based programs were introduced to the juvenile justice policy.It appears that during 1970s and 1980s, the juvenile court has endeavored to retain a balance between rehabilitating and punishing offenders (Jenson & Howard, 1998). In 1974, the federal government enacted Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act that promoted the least restrictive placement for young offenders, establishment of programs at community level, custodial institutions, and diversion of youths from formal juvenile justice system processing. In view of that, all states adopted the policy of decriminalization and deinstitutionalization between 1970 and 1985. Rehabilitation and individualized treatment were more in favor over the punishment. Moreover, several studies reveal that community-based treatment reduced recidivism (Jenson &Howard, 1998).Since 1985, the juvenile justice policy has changed its approach to punishment and control of juvenile delinquents, which was caused by the nature of the crime committed by youth and the political climate. It seems that several changes occurred...

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