CJ 205 Juvenile Justice Term Paper

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Juvenile Justice System

Do you believe there is a growing common consensus that juveniles are somehow less culpable for their crimes since they have not been in this world as long as an adult or do you believe that there is growing common consensus that juveniles are just as guilty as an adult when they make a conscious decision to commit a crime? Explain.

From the early stages of the development of criminal justice system in the United States, there has been a distinction between adult justice system and the juvenile justice system. Otherwise, there would be no need to talk about juveniles as a separate category. The issue for a long time was different in practice, juveniles being punished in the same way adults were, but since 1950s, the U.S. justice system, partly in response to pressure from the public, began to implement more lenient policies toward juveniles.

It is clear now that there is a growing consensus among Americans on the need to clearly distinguish between adults and juveniles and focus rather on prevention and rehabilitation rather than punishment for the latter. The public increasingly of the opinion that juveniles are not mature enough to be treated in the criminal justice system in the same manner adults are. There are still many who believe that juveniles can be as guilty as adults, especially when they perpetrate horrifying crimes, but the focus increasingly is on implementing programs for rehabilitation and more lenient forms of punishment.Buy full Download Microsoft Word File paper
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Term Paper on CJ 205 Juvenile Justice Assignment

A recent national poll, surveying Americans about juvenile justice issues found that there is a growing consensus on the opinion that treating juveniles like adults increases recidivism, decreasing the possibility of successfully reentering the society as normal citizens. According to the poll, seventy eight percent of Americans believe that the juvenile justice system should be focusing more on prevention and rehabilitation before implementing any form of punishment. Among these seventy two percent are conservatives. Seventy six percent also said that juveniles have greater potential to change for the better. Also, there is a growing number of Americans -- over seventy percent -- who believe that rehabilitation programs for juveniles can save tax dollars in the future (Moll, 2011).

It is clear from the results of this and other polls that the public increasingly believes that juveniles should not be held to the same standards that adults are. For example, Justice Anthony Kennedy, who had in the past voted for upholding death penalty for juveniles, was a leading advocate of abolishing juvenile death penalty by 2005 and the number of states abolishing it had increased (Lane, 2005). The changing attitudes also reflect the influence of medical-scientific community and the opinions of social scientists and humanists who argue that there is compelling evidence juveniles are different. There is also the influence of globalization as more and more Americans are of the opinion that the United States should not be isolated from the rest of the democratic world.

2. Is it somehow hypocritical to not allow juveniles to marry, sign contracts, fight in a war, or have a consensual relationship with an adult, but allow them to be tried as an adult for a crime they commit? Does a juvenile offender somehow give up their rights as a juvenile when they commit a certain type of crime?


It is somewhat hypocritical because juveniles are not allowed to marry, sign contracts, fight in a war, or have a consensual relationship with an adult because of the belief that juveniles are not mature enough to make such decisions. These issues are considered to require responsibility only adults can be hold accountable. But somehow, some people argue that juveniles can be tried in adult criminal justice system and be punished in the same manner if they commit heinous crimes. The logic behind the laws concerning marriage or military service for adults is not always applied to the criminal justice system.

Yet the issue is a bit more complicated. Not allowing juveniles to marry or join war efforts is a law that applies to all juveniles -- without any exceptions. Those who call for harsher punishments for juvenile criminals do not necessarily believe that all juveniles should be punished harshly. They mostly argue for extreme cases; for instance, the cases when a juvenile commits a cold-blooded homicide or rapes a child. There is always a distinction made between criminal, non-criminal, and relatively harmless criminals in the juvenile criminal justice system whereas the laws pertaining to marriage and fighting a war applies to all juveniles.

There is another issue which needs to be taken into account here. Banning juveniles to enter consensual relationships with adults or getting married does not harm anyone or forgive any criminal activity. In the case of juvenile crimes, the juveniles harm other people and there is a risk that, if they are not effectively rehabilitated or incarcerated, they may harm additional people. So, the issue here is a bit more complicated. But there is no doubt that juveniles cannot categorically be viewed as adults as they are not mature enough to be held accountable in the same manner as adults are.

3. Do you believe that executing someone who committed their crime as a juvenile is a violation of the Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishments? Why or why not. Do you believe that a life term with no parole against someone who committed a non-murder crime as a juvenile is a violation of the Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishments?

Why or why not. Should this determination be left up to the trial court when weighing the evidence and specific circumstances and elements of the crime committed?

This is another debatable and complicated question. There is a difficulty of defining clearly the provisions of the Eighth Amendment with regards to cruel and unusual punishment as it is regarding the age of adulthood. Legally, the age of adulthood is eighteen and over. But is there an incontrovertible and scientific evidence showing that there is a sharp difference between someone who is seventeen years old and eleven months and someone who has celebrated his eighteenth birthday just two days ago? Is there any scientific evidence or an objective legal ground to believe that the former is mentally and psychologically immature and the latter is not? These are tough questions. Analyzed individually, one may certainly find a juvenile at the age of seventeen who, due to social-economic and cultural background, may show the signs of maturity better than a nineteen-year-old who grew up in different socio-economic and cultural conditions. Is it just then to treat the latter as an adult but the former as a juvenile? The answer to this question is not an easy one.

Now, regarding the Eighth Amendment, the interpretation of cruel and unusual punishment can be stretched in either direction. Clearly, what the framers of the Eighth Amendment had in mind when they discussed "cruel and unusual punishment" is not what lawyers today have in mind ("Cruel and Unusual Punishment"). For example, at the time the Amendment was drafted, hanging a criminal was considered a "normal" form of execution whereas today it is considered barbaric and therefore the justice system opts for a more "humane" and "civilized" form of execution: lethal injection. Some lawyers at the time considered whipping or cutting somebody's ear an appropriate form of punishment while others disagreed. But today there is a consensus on the inadmissibility of such practices.

Therefore, the provisions of the Eighth Amendment cannot be interpreted exactly the way they were written down at the time. Interpretation of the Eighth Amendment should be done in consideration of changing societal views. Both lawyers and the public have a different understanding of what constitutes "cruel and unusual punishment" today. So, in essence one can argue that the execution of persons who committed their crimes as juveniles violates the provisions of the Eighth Amendment on the grounds that it was a blueprint for restricting cruel and unusual punishment in general. In this manner, juvenile death penalty may be considered unconstitutional. However, it remains controversial because the Eighth Amendment, without a specific kind of modern interpretation, does not directly ban juvenile death penalty.

4. In coming to its decision about not allowing executions for juveniles the U.S.

Supreme Court cited "international sentiment" in deciding to restrict this ultimate form of punishment to only adults. Should the United States Supreme

Court follow the law of the United States and the opinions of United States citizens exclusively when coming to a decision about a case or should they also take into consideration internationally recognized standards and sentiment? Explain.

The answer to this question is not a categorical "yes" or "no" because it is again complicated. In principle, the laws of the United States should reflect the opinions of American citizens and lawyers. American laws should not be subjected to the concerns of people outside the country. The Constitution does not state that international concerns should dictate American laws, nor… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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