The Juvenile court is also known as the young offenders court and started to cater for the offenders who committed crimes but were below the age of majority. The philosophy behind the creation of this system was that children had become so sinful that there was need to create a system of punishment or control for the ill behavior (Hess et. Al. 35). The concept behind this was that the youthful offenders when left out of control, would continue being delinquents and they would later pose a threat to the security of the society.
The way this court operates today has been criticized by many as having lost part of its initial purpose. The juvenile court was begun to act as a court of law ensuring adherence to law by the children and adolescents and also as a social agency.
The goal of the juvenile court and its benefit to juveniles tried as adults.
There are various differences between the Juvenile courts and the adult courts. In juvenile trials, children do not plead guilty but they admit to charges, children are also not referred to as criminals but delinquents and they also do not get a sentence but a disposition. All these differences are meant to protect children who will later become adults.
The trial of the delinquent is sealed. This means that once the youthful offender gets to the age of majority, the records of their delinquent behavior will be erased. The reason the juvenile system does this is so that the delinquent will not suffer from the sins of their ill behavior all their life and yet it is presumed that during the time of commission of the crimes, they lacked the intellectual capacity to know that they were doing wrong.
The primary goal of the adult court is punishment (Simkins, 12). An adult is expected to understand clearly their actions and be accountable for their behavior. However the goal of the juvenile court system is rehabilitation. Its aim is to help curb the childs ill behavior and make them come to a recollection of their mistakes.
The distinction in procedure and sentencing between adult courts and juvenile courts is because the childs brain is different from that of an adult. The child lacks the moral and intellectual capacity to understand their actions and the consequences that may follow.
Is this goal beneficial to juveniles tried as adults?
For those juveniles tried as adults, the goal of punishment is beneficial to them. The primary goal of juvenile courts is rehabilitation. Punishment being the goal of adult courts means that the offender clearly understands his actions and does them with clear intent to commit the particular offence. For a juvenile to be tried in an adult court, there has to be special circumstances warranting the same.
With punishment, the juvenile will learn to become a more responsible person. Most juveniles know that they have the protection of the law and thus, one might commit an offence knowing that their sentence will be less harsh. However, with punishment in mind, a juvenile is more cautious so as to avoid committing a crime.
On the positive side, there are various constitutional rights that are guaranteed to suspects being tried in adult courts. For example, suspects on trial in adult courts have the right to bail, right to a public trial, as well as the advantage of having a jury. When a juvenile is tried in an adult court, they can access these rights not guaranteed during juvenile trials.
Transfer from the juvenile courts to the adult courts
There are instances when the juvenile matter is transferred to an adult court. This mostly happens when an older juvenile commits a crime of a violent nature. It could also be in the case of a repeat offender who has been tried before in a juvenile court. This transfer is through a process known as a waiver. The judge trying the juvenile waives the protections that the juvenile is usually entitled to in the juvenile court.
In most cases, for a judge to waive a case, the juvenile should be above the age of sixteen years. However, there are cases where even younger juveniles are taken for trial in adult cases. For this to happen the crime has to be very serious like homicide.
For a long time, juveniles below the age of sixteen could only be tried in the juvenile courts. The inclination towards the lowering of the age of waiver was due to the public outcry that there were so many cases by juveniles of a younger age below the age of sixteen which were very violent.
In the case of Kent v. United States (383 U.S. 541, 1996) the constitutionality of transferring juveniles to adult courts was considered. The reasoning behind the need to transfer particular juvenile crimes to the adult court was that the juvenile violent crimes were on the rise and there was the need to address this escalation (Fagan, Jeffrey, and Franklin 17). The push towards the waiver was as the proponents said, some juveniles were beyond rehabilitation and needed to be punished and this could only happen in the adult courts.
As indicated in this paper, every day law enforcement agencies look for ways of reducing the rate of crime. These measures call for ways of increasing punishment as a response mechanism towards the commission of a crime. The get tough laws for example, are one of the mechanisms developed in the mid 1970s to address the rising levels of crime.
The get tough laws were implemented by the federal government and over 20 years later, many are yet to feel the effect of these laws as crime rate has not yet gone down. The voters then felt that there needed to be a change from the goal of rehabilitation to the goal of punishment. Through to the mid 90s, most of the states philosophy was basically about incapacitation and deterrence. This is what it was purely meant by the enactment of the get tough laws.
These laws in the aim of reducing crime require that repeat offenders, violent offenders as well as those caught trafficking drugs face mandatory punishment. It is important however, that one assesses the effectiveness of these laws that gained popularity in the 90s. According to many analysts, these laws have not done much to reduce crime. The cases of drug trafficking are on the rise and are reported every day. Violent crimes are witnessed everyday especially among juveniles who there before were considered to be persons who lack the criminal intent to commit a crime.
The juvenile court system has developed greatly since its inception. Insecurity is one of the threats that destabilize mankind and there is always the need to look for ways of ensuring that law and order is maintained even if this means that the judge transfers a juvenile case to an adult court to effect the goal of punishment. The get tough laws are also aimed at achieving the same purpose, but there needs to be more stringent measures if the rates of crime are to go gown by any significant number.
Drug abuse Council (Washington DC). A Perspective on get tough drug laws. The University of Michigan. 2001. Print.
Fagan, Jeffrey, and Franklin E. Zimring. The Changing Borders of Juvenile Justice: Transfer of Adolescents to the Criminal Court. Chicago: U of Chicago, 2000. Print.
Hess, Karen M., Christine M. H. Orthmann, and John Paul. Wright. Juvenile Justice. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning, 2013. Print.
Simkins, Sandra. When Kids Get Arrested: What Every Adult Should Know. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers UP, 2009. Print.
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