Essay: Juvenile Court Philosophy

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¶ … articles discussing the parens patriae ideal of juvenile justice, compared with the Get Tough Movement in juvenile justice. It will also compare and contrast the two articles. These two articles discuss different areas of juvenile justice, and they show how the field is constantly changing as new research points toward new methods of dealing with juvenile offenders.

The first article, Juvenile gun courts: Promoting accountability and providing treatment by David Sheppard and Patricia Kelly discusses the idea of specialty courts that deal with specific juvenile crimes, in this case, those involving guns. In their Introduction, they introduce the topic. They write, "One innovative response has been the specialty court, characterized by small caseloads, frequent hearings, immediate sanctions, family involvement, and treatment services" (Sheppard & Kelly, 2002). In this case, this specialty court deals with gun-related crimes that have caused relatively minor injuries, and it augments the traditional juvenile court. The article serves two purposes. It looks at a specific gun court in Jefferson County, Alabama, and it shares the experiences of those working in the gun court as an example to other lawmakers and criminal justice professionals.

The article discusses how to determine if a community needs a juvenile gun court by assessing the "extent of gun availability, possession, and use among youth in its community. The group should study the court's juvenile caseload from previous years, but it must do more than review the charges -- it must also examine the facts underlying the charges and the social factors affecting the youth population" (Sheppard & Kelly, 2002). They also list several other indicators that can be used to determine the extent of the problem in the community, including gang membership, use of other types of weapons, and more. They also recommend looking at court records to determine outcomes and how the court holds these juveniles accountable for their actions.

They note that gun courts accomplish different outcomes that traditional juvenile courts do not. They are "Early screening and referral of juveniles who can benefit from the program. An expanded role for the judge as educator, not just adjudicator. Involvement of community members" (Sheppard & Kelly, 2002). There are also several key elements of a successful juvenile gun court. They include early intervention, short but intensive programming, an educational focus, and involvement of key court personnel. Another key aspect is involving community members in the proceedings.

The Jefferson County program began in 1995, and it includes a boot camp, parental education, a substance abuse program, after care, and community service. This illustrates the Get Tough Movement because it involves the juvenile in alternative programs that stress accountability and retribution, so the juvenile understands the consequences of his or her actions. The gun court group showed significant improvement in many areas. For example, "The intensive supervision group had significantly lower levels of recidivism (17%) than the nonintensive supervision group (37%) and the comparison group (40%)" (Sheppard & Kelly, 2002). This illustrates how accountability and retribution help keep kids out of the courts.

Both of these articles cite statistics about youth and their criminal activity, including how likely they are to return to juvenile crime after their time in court. They illustrate that the more the court intervenes and counsels, the less likely they are to return to criminal activities. They also show that being tried as an adult can cause a juvenile to think twice about committing a crime, and they illustrate how courts have to stay flexible and look at new ideas when it comes to treating juvenile offenders. They have to try new ways of dealing with juveniles, like the gun courts the article discusses, and they have to stay current with what motivates and stimulates today's youth. The community involvement is also crucial for dealing with today's youth. The gun court article used examples of other offenders who have turned their lives around, along with victims of similar crimes. This community involvement seems to be a key to turning lives around and preventing more crimes and it seems that it could work in just about any location. It is another way to teach the juveniles accountability and responsibility, by showing them they can turn their lives around, and what their actions mean to their victims. Making the victims real seems to be a very motivational and inspirational way to affect change.

The second article is Juvenile transfer laws: An effective deterrent to delinquency? By Richard E. Redding. It discusses juveniles who commit serious crimes and are tried in adult courts. The article looks at transfer laws that allow juveniles to be tried in adult courts, along with success rates and recidivism rates. The article notes, "Transferred juveniles, particularly those convicted of violent offenses, typically receive longer sentences than those sentenced in the juvenile court for similar crimes" (Redding, 2008). Most states have transfer laws, and many of them only transfer the older and most serious offenders to adult court.

While some studies indicate that trying juveniles as adults do not have any effect on crime rates, other studies suggest they do. The author writes, "On the other hand, the results of a multi-state analysis for the years 1978 to 1993 suggest that adult sanctions, under certain conditions, may have moderate deterrent effects on juvenile crime (Redding, 2008). In fact, the author cites several studies that show juveniles involved in certain crimes, such as drug dealing, tend not to return to dealing after their arrest and release, indicting rehabilitation efforts seem to work in at least a majority of some types of crime. However, many other studies indicate that transferred youth, who tend to be more hard-core offenders, actually return to crime more quickly, and return to it more often that juveniles tried in juvenile court. So, in many instances, the youth that are treated as adults tend to recidivate more often, especially in certain crimes, such as drug dealing.

This article clearly illustrates the benefits of rehabilitation and training. The author states, "The youth rated the deep-end juvenile programs the most beneficial largely because these programs provided intensive, long-term job skills training and treatment" (Redding, 2008). When the juveniles rate the system as effective, it has to be good, and their low recidivism rates indicate this is indeed the case. When they received these benefits, they were far less likely to return to their lives of crime, and that is much better for them, but for society in general, as well.

Some youth found the adult prison experience too painful and they did not want to reoffend as a result, but others noted they just learned how to be more effective criminals in prison, and it was not a deterrent to them at all. "Juveniles in adult prison reported that much of their time was spent learning criminal behavior from the inmates and proving how tough they were" (Redding, 2008). Overall, the author contends that adult prison does not convince youthful offenders not to commit more crimes, and that more transfer juveniles return to criminal activities than youth tried in the juvenile courts.

The author feels that at least part of the solution lies in educating lawmakers and other criminal justice personnel to the dangers of transfer laws. He writes, "This finding suggests that educating judges, prosecutors, court personnel, and legislators about the research on transfer may reduce the number of cases transferred to criminal court or the number of transferred cases that result in criminal sanctions" (Redding, 2008). This shows that ongoing education for criminal justice professionals is as necessary as it is for many other professionals, because ongoing research turns up new results and methods all the time.

Both of these articles show some of the problems facing the juvenile courts today. In a perfect world, juveniles would be rehabilitated and learn to be… [END OF PREVIEW]

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