Juvenile Justice Essay Questions

Discussions about juvenile justice policy and practice are confusing if these elements are not clear.In short, it must be remembered that juvenile delinquency (i.e., conduct for which a juvenile is subject to a delinquency adjudication) is a legally defined concept that varies substantially from state to state.The availability and suitability of an intervention often influences the outcome of earlier decisions.

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Do youth have to be arrested to have contact with the system?

Must they be formally charged, adjudicated, or placed in a program to be in the system?

It does not necessarily involve careful and accurate assessments of needs or treatment.

Thus, it is not possible to infer the dangerousness and harmfulness of a youth’s behavior solely on the basis of how that individual is handled in the juvenile justice system.

Many factors govern the path that an individual delinquency case takes through the justice process.

The juvenile justice process is organizationally complex, value-driven, and often politicized.A wide variety of professionals, semiprofessionals, citizens, and volunteers participate in the juvenile justice process.Although all participants share a general commitment to the declared goals, they rely on their own professional perspectives and values in making decisions and recommending particular actions for individual cases.Balancing the varying perspectives and expectations of the people involved in the juvenile justice process can be difficult, contentious, and somewhat unpredictable.Young people charged with committing similar acts of delinquency may be handled quite differently, depending on the state or county in which they live, the characteristics of their families and neighborhoods, their sex, their race or ethnicity, their demeanor, their involvement with drugs and alcohol, any mental health issues involved, and the actual harm their behavior has inflicted on individuals or the community.States periodically revisit these age boundaries (Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, 2011c).Since the mid-1990s, the legislatures of Connecticut, Illinois, New Hampshire, and Wisconsin, all redefined the original jurisdiction of their juvenile courts, either raising the boundary for entire age groups (Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Wisconsin) or raising it for certain classes of offenses (Illinois).This popular notion of delinquency, however, is not an adequate definition for a discussion of juvenile justice practice and policy. Not all misbehaving teenagers under age 18 are subject to the jurisdiction of the juvenile court.Even when they are legally defined as a minor (or juvenile), not all of their law violations are defined as acts of “juvenile delinquency.” A law violation by a young person is considered an act of juvenile delinquency only if the behavior meets all three of the following criteria: (1) the act involved would be a criminal offense if it were committed by an adult; (2) the young person charged with committing the act is below the age at which the criminal court traditionally assumes jurisdiction; and (3) the juvenile is charged with an offense that must be adjudicated in the juvenile court (or some other court with jurisdiction over noncriminal but illegal acts of juveniles) or the prosecution and the juvenile court judge exercise their discretion to lodge and retain jurisdiction in the juvenile court.In all states, the legal status of a young person charged with an illegal act is largely determined by the person’s age, but the exact definitions are governed by state law.Most states consider people to be adults for the purposes of criminal prosecution as of their 18th birthday, but some jurisdictions use the 17th birthday as the cutoff (e.g., Georgia, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, and Texas) and a few prefer the 16th birthday (e.g., New York and North Carolina).


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