The juvenile justice system is a branch of the court and the justice system that is responsible for handling offenders who have not attained the age of being adults. The history of the juvenile justice system can be traced to the 18th and 19th centuries, during this time, convicted minors were jailed and mixed with adults in overcrowded confinements (Zehr, 2015). Thomas Eddy and John Griscom formed the Society for the Prevention of Pauperism, this was a movement that advocated for the separation of kids from adults in the correction facilities (Zehr, 2015). In 1825, The New York House of Refuge was established, this was the first youth confinement facility, later in 1840, twenty-five other facilities had been established. In 1899, the first juvenile Court was established, where offenders of age under sixteen years were convicted (Zehr, 2015).
The original intent for the formation of the juvenile justice system was to promote the conversion of youth offenders into productive members of the community by rehabilitating them through individualized justice (Taylor, 2014). The individualized justice included warning, prohibiting, and training them in a confined facility and later integrating them back into society. Additionally, it was intended to prevent minors from engaging in criminal activities in the future (Ogletree Jr, 2015). The reason for the creation of this system was to prevent juveniles from being convicted and judge like adults. Further, it was created to prevent the application of laws that minors do not understand in the dispensation of justice. This system is similar to the adult justice system since the accused in both systems have a right to attorney services. Further, lawyers in both systems have the right to cross-examine witnesses, and the accused in both systems have the right of protection from self-incrimination. However the two systems differ, the juveniles have no option of the jury system, additionally, minors are not usually convicted of committing crimes but rather they are convicted for delinquent acts (Ogletree Jr, 2015). If convicted minors abide by certain rules their record may be erased when they turn 18 years, this does not occur for adults.
The age of criminal responsibility is an age limit below which an individual is believed not to be in a position to commit a criminal offense. After attaining this age, offenders are believed to have committed a crime knowingly, and therefore, the excuse of ignorance does not play a part anymore (Ogletree Jr, 2015). In the U.S., the age of criminal responsibility differs from state to state, with thirty-three states putting no limit to this age. Texas raised the age of criminal responsibility from seventeen years to eighteen and therefore, it implies that below this age accused are charged in a juvenile court and are rehabilitated at a juvenile facility
Neurobiological evidence suggests that the brain of children under the age of eighteen is under development and it has not attained maturity. At this stage, the minor’s decisions are greatly influenced by external forces including peers and the environment. Therefore, their decision-making skills and impulsiveness is influenced by external factors, implying that the decision to commit a crime may not be an individual decision, but a result of external forces (Taylor, 2014). The supreme court has incorporated the evidence of brain development in its judgment by hence prohibiting the death sentences for juveniles and also abolishing the life- without- parole sentences for this group of offenders. Detention of youths at a young age increases the chances of reoccurrence of crime in the future, this is because many of the youths get hardened and are hence capable of committing crimes in the future (Taylor, 2014).
In my opinion, there has been a shift in the juvenile criminal system where the intention of the system has changed from punishing the offenders to rehabilitating them. This is a shift in the right direction since most of them commit crimes due to external influence from peers and the environment. Additionally, according to my opinion, the age of criminal responsibility should be redesigned and increased so as to allow the youth to mature before being convicted.
Ogletree Jr, C. J. (2015). A new juvenile justice system: Total reform for a broken system. N. E. Dowd (Ed.). NYU Press
Taylor, R. (2014). Juvenile justice: Policies, programs, and practices. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Higher Education.
Zehr, H. (2015). The little book of restorative justice: Revised and updated. New York, NY: Skyhorse Publishing, Inc.