Juvenile Justice Systems Essay

1521 words - 7 pages

Juvenile crime is a term around the world that is difficult to pinpoint and although there are several definitions many fail to be concrete. There are many factors that play into sentencing juveniles or minors upon a crime committed. How old are they? Can they mentally form criminal intent? Are they old enough to no longer be treated as children? Some people would argue that a criminal is just that, regardless of age. Research on the other hand shows that juveniles have underdeveloped brains who at times have difficulty rationalizing decisions and weighing out consequences. It is important that these issues are addressed because of the implications this has on not only the ...view middle of the document...

On the other hand in the criminal justice system we treat a 14 year old like an adult if they are being sentenced for a crime. Even though adolescents can seem like adults on the outside their brains have not developed enough to make rational decisions. A study showed that the frontal lobe the largest part of the brain that controls the brains most advanced functions is the last part of the brain to develop. So even though they are perfectly able in other parts of the brain their lack of a developed frontal lobe can distort a juveniles decisions. (American Bar Association, 2003) This makes it difficult for juveniles to measure consequences beyond their actions in the moment. In a film about incarcerated Juveniles 14 year old Colt was convicted of killing his stepfather. He tells his story and what he was thinking before committing the act, “I didn’t think I would go to prison, I thought the worse they could give me was probation or boys camp, I didn’t realize that after the fact that every decision I make has consequences.” (Kent, 2011)
Research in adolescent brains has shown us that they use their amygdala to make decisions. Amygdala is responsible for fear and anxiety making juveniles reliance on it quite dangerous. In male adolescent in particular we see an increase in testosterone which increases aggression and in females the increase of hormones causes depression & anxiety causing irrational choices. (American Bar Association, 2003) Often the underlying issue behind juvenile delinquency is due to factors that they juvenile cannot control. Growing up in situations where there was substance abuse, being the victim of physical or sexual assault can trigger juveniles to become reactive and make irrational decisions. Like in the case of Paul who is incarcerated for killing his father who was physically and emotionally abusive. He lost control because he didn’t rationalize any alternative actions. That along with brain development became a toxic combination that has landed him in prison with the possibility of being transferred to adult prison at 12 years old. (Kent, 2011) Research has shown that detention facilities do not have the resources necessary to address the underlying cause of status offenses which is what the majority of juveniles commit. (Holman & Ziedenberg, 2006)
United States Juvenile Justice
In the United States, there is no national, centralized juvenile justice system. Rather, there are more than 56 different juvenile justice systems independently operated by the U.S. States, territories, the District of Columbia, and local governments. Policies and procedures vary widely from state to state and among local jurisdictions, creating an un-cohesive group of juvenile justice systems that in result creates inconsistent outcomes for youth, families, and communities all over the United States. (Williams, 2013) Being that this is an optional law many states in the United States have set the minimum age for being treated as an adult at...

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