Juvenile justice is a justice system that operates under the juvenile law, which aims at trying the offenders who are mainly between 10 and 18 years (Maggio, 2010). The operation of the juvenile justice system takes into account the differences that exist between the youth and the adults in terms of accountability as well as room for rehabilitation. It operates on the basis that the youth can be successfully rehabilitated, hence improve security in the community.
Why Should the Juvenile Justice System Adopt Rehabilitation Program
Due to a number of reasons, many children and teenagers engage themselves in criminal activities that make them end up in courts. United States being one of the countries that have a high number of child/teenage crimes in the world has been engaged in major debates on how to put in place a system that will help to curb the high rate of child/teenage crime (Cole & Smith, 2009).
The juvenile justice system should focus on rehabilitating the children/ teenagers since the program operates on the basis that children/ teenagers can be successfully rehabilitated as opposed to adults and hence, improve security in the society. This rehabilitation program plays a critical role since it tries to identify why the children/ teenagers engage themselves in crimes.
Several research studies show that there are diverse reasons that make the children/adolescents to engage themselves in crimes. Some of these reasons include being in a state of poverty, being discriminated on racial grounds, and having easy access to drugs (Beyer, 2003). Moreover, there are also several theories, which attempt to find out the reasons why children/adolescents engage themselves in criminal acts. These theories include genetics, and being neglected by parents as this lowers the child’s self-esteem (Siegel & Welsh, 2008).
A combination of the above factors with other environmental factors such as television and peer pressure makes the children to engage themselves in criminal acts. Proper understanding of why the children/teenagers commit crime is paramount since it helps the juvenile justice system to know the kind of rehabilitation program that should be put in place in order to induce cognitive behavior.
Explanation of the Juvenile Justice System
Law Enforcement and the Court Process
When a youth commits a crime, the police have the responsibility of arresting him/her and taking him to juvenile court’s custody where he/she awaits his/her trial. Juvenile justice system operates in a flexible manner since it tries to attend various needs of the child offender.
In the court process, the Juvenile justice system works under a guiding principle whereby the child/adolescent undergoes through a trial that helps to determine the kind of treatment that he/she will be offered. The court follows the due process of hearing the case until the jury rules the case. The children/teenagers who are sentenced by the juvenile court are not termed as guilty but as delinquent children (Maggio, 2010)
However, the juvenile courts have the responsibility of handing over the children/teenagers to the adult court whenever the teenagers exceed the age limit of the juvenile court while serving a sentence (Cole & Smith, 2009). This also applies to cases where the rehabilitation program does not have a positive impact on the child/adolescent receiving it. The judge has the overall responsibility of determining where the youth will serve and the period of service.
The juvenile justice system has the mandate of releasing a child/adolescent offender as long as he/she has developed cognitive behavior (Siegel & Welsh, 2008). Hence, the child’s sentence does not heavily rely on timeframe but rather on development of cognitive behavior.
The development of new cognitive behavior is normally evaluated in order ascertain whether the child should to be released. This evaluation is determined by the way the program influences the child/adolescent during the rehabilitation process as well as after being released to the community. However, the child/adolescent can be re-arrested if he/she fails to demonstrate development of cognitive skills within the community.
According to a nationwide research, the juvenile courts play a very critical role in reducing future criminal activities of the drug offenders. In a comparison done between teenage drug offenders who completed the rehabilitation program offered by the juvenile court and the teenagers who never completed the program shows that the rehabilitation program has a capacity of reducing a re-arrest of the same offence by 8% to 26% (Siegel & Welsh, 2008).
This thus shows that the youth offenders who are re-arrested for committing the same offence are the youth who are transferred from the juvenile justice system to the adult prisons. The completion of the juvenile justice program is thus emphasized since transferring the offenders to adult prisons reduces the success rate of the rehabilitation.
The juvenile rehabilitation program endeavors to correct the offenders by transforming cognitively the distorted cognitive behavior of the child/adolescent involved in criminal acts. The program plays a critical role in the life of the offender after the trial period since it aims at identifying the child’s weaknesses in order to generate new alternatives, goals, and viable ideas that will help the children to solve their present as well as their future problems (Maggio, 2010).
The juvenile justice rehabilitation program helps the community in providing education programs, which play the role of providing families with essential information on bringing up a healthy child. Some of these programs involve teaching the children on the negative side effects of being involved in gangs, drugs, harmful weapons, and sex while others aim at raising the self-esteem of the child/adolescent as well as letting them understand the self worth of other people (Beyer, 2003).
This approach helps the children/teenagers to understand the consequences of their actions and hence, makes their thinking to slant more in the positive rather than the negative side of an event.
The purpose of a juvenile court is to divert children/adolescents offenders from facing criminal justice by providing them with an opportunity for a rehabilitation program (Zimring, 2000). However, the teenage offenders have in the past been subjected to scare tactics during the 1990s as the rehabilitation program administrators thought that this would improve the children/adolescents’ attitudes.
The scare tactics strategy was implemented due to increased debates affirming that the high youth crime rate had resulted from lack of fear of being sentenced in juvenile courts, as the system was not harsh to them. This subjected the teenagers to harsh conditions in the juvenile courts. In addition to this, the transfer from the juvenile court to adult court was made easier. Although the purpose of this tactic was to reduce the crime rate among the teenagers, it however had a low success rate (Roberts, 2003).
The failures evident in the scare tactic program have facilitated the need for coming up with a viable intervention that aims at developing the child cognitive behavior.
Some of these interventions take an approach of assisting the children at their early stages of childhood development to their adolescent stage while other take an approach of providing the offenders and the neglected children with the appropriate intervention that aims at increasing their self esteem rather than subjecting them to harsh judgments. Therefore, when implemented in an effective manner, the rehabilitation program plays a critical role as it reduces the prison admissions.
Argument Opposing the View of Rehabilitation in the Juvenile Justice System
Rehabilitation program provided by the juvenile justice system faces a number of arguments, which emanate from the fact that the rehabilitation programs do not restrict crime in the society. On the other hand, others believe that the best option for reducing crime in the society is improving the lives of the teenagers through proper implementation of rehabilitation since it will serve the role of inducing therapeutic integrity that adds value not only to the lives the offenders but also to the entire society.
Roberts (2003) asserts that in reviewing the existing process of outcome evaluations of the juvenile court, there is a need of coming up with a conceptual framework that will assess the success of Juvenile court’s rehabilitation program. This would help in addressing the arguments by providing answers since it will have indicators, which show that the juvenile justice can hold rehabilitation programs in a successful manner. The three main arguments are discussed below in turn
Argument 1: Should teenage offenders be left to suffer in adult prisons or should the juvenile justice rehabilitate them in order to induce cognitive behavior?
The answer to this argument can be derived from evaluating a single juvenile court in order to assess whether the treatment modifies the character and the personality of the teenage offenders. The study should entail measurement of various kinds of successes that have been achieved by the effectiveness of the juvenile rehabilitation programs since the purpose of a juvenile court is to divert teenage offenders from facing criminal justice by providing them with an effective opportunity for treatment (Beyer, 2003).
According to Zimring (2000), a good evaluation program should strive to ensure that the juvenile court specialists have the required skills pertaining to training the offenders, which include the background area of the offenders, and assessment of the major reasons that contribute to criminal acts.
The juvenile courts have successfully achieved the knowledge about the children and teenagers by ensuring that the staff or the juvenile courts specialists are well trained and sensitive, monitored, and have adequate knowledge of delivering the program effectively as well as following the offenders after they have completed the rehabilitation program (Beyer, 2003).
Argument 2: Do juvenile justice incur larger costs than the adult courts?
Financial benefit is a critical component that should be considered while evaluating the effectiveness of the juvenile justice rehabilitation program. It would be rational if the assessor evaluates the long-term financial benefits rather than the short-term benefits of the juvenile rehabilitation program.
A careful consideration of the ongoing cost of the juvenile justice program to the participating members should be put into consideration. The evaluation should assess how the juvenile’s court resources are distributed by carefully identifying the cost savings associated with juvenile court even when findings are unavailable from the federal government (Siegel & Welsh, 2008).
The juvenile court rehabilitation program has contributed to a stunning national expansion and this proves that it is cost effective (Siegel & Welsh, 2008). This emanates from the fact that when a teenage offender get into the juvenile court he/ she experiences motivational as well as behavioral change. This facilitates reduction of crime and therefore helps to reduce the added cost of crime that affect the society.
Argument 3: Do juvenile justice assist the teenage offenders in developing new behavioral cognitive skills fully, thus preventing a re-arrest?
There are a number of issues, which should be considered when evaluating whether the juvenile courts help in assisting the teenage offenders in learning of new behavioral cognitive skills. The type of treatment methods that is employed by the juvenile courts puts much emphasis on the method that appears to develop cognitive skills to the offenders. Siegel & Welsh (2008) affirms that the appropriate method to be used for all offenders should assess the pattern of the crime, and the way the children/ adolescents influence program participation. The program thus takes into account the various stages of childhood development.
The success of juvenile rehabilitation program has been facilitated by concealing the records of crime to the public and hence; it does not limit the child/ adolescent opportunities for his/her future goals (Maggio, 2010). The development of new cognitive behavior together with unlimited opportunities in the community helps to reduce the chances of a re-arrest.
Advantages of the Rehabilitation Program in the Juvenile Justice System
Rehabilitating children in the juvenile justice system takes a considerable amount of time before they acquire cognitive therapy. The juvenile justice rehabilitation program however works to the advantage of the child offender since it facilitates cognitive behavioral development that helps the children after they leave the juvenile court.
Being termed as delinquent children is beneficial since it hides the secrets of having being sentenced by a court of law. Hence, the child offender does not experienced reduced life opportunities within the community.
Despite the fact that the juvenile justice system program is expensive, the cost of the program far outweighs the cost related to crimes committed by the youth. Thus, the juvenile program guarantees safety to the entire public on a long-term basis, hence, reducing costs related to crimes, which include costs in response to crime, costs resulting from crime, and costs in prevention of crime.
Beyer, M. (2003). Best Practices in Juvenile Accountability: Overview. Retrieved on October 29th, 2010, from http://www.ncjrs.gov/html/ojjdp/184745/contents.html.
Cole, G., & Smith, C. (2009). The American System of Criminal Justice, International Edition. London: Cengage Learning.
Maggio, S. (2010). Juvenile vs. Adult Courts: A basic introduction. Retrieved on November 23rd, 2010, from http://www.suite101.com/content/juvenile-vs-adult-courts-a-basic-introduction-a243548.
Roberts, A. (2003). Critical issues in crime and justice. Thousand Oaks, Calif: SAGE publishers.
Siegel, L., & Welsh, B. (2008). Juvenile Delinquency: Theory, Practice, and Law. London: Cengage Learning.
Zimring, F. (January 01, 2000). The Common Thread: Diversion in Juvenile Justice. California Law Review, 88, 6, 2477.