Juvenile Justice Process and Corrections
In this paper, we will examine the process of the juvenile justice system. We will explore the different stages of the process as well as the difference between delinquency and status offenders. Then we will apply the process to a specific case to include the decision as the Intake Officer might make it. In the end we will be able to see how the process works. Delinquent or Status Offender
Juvenile delinquency is defined as any behavior that is prohibited by the juvenile laws of a state. However, delinquency generally consists of two categories. The first is any act committed by a juvenile that would be defined as a crime if it were committed by an adult. Hence, an act of delinquency in juvenile court is the same as a crime in adult court. Offenses such as theft, burglary, assault, and robbery would be considered acts of delinquency, just as they are considered to be adult crimes. The second category of delinquency includes acts known as status offenses. A status offense differs in that it would not be considered a crime if committed by an adult, but would be considered an act of delinquency when committed by a juvenile. Status offenses include such offenses as running away from home, skipping school (truancy), violating curfew, incorrigibility (not obeying one’s parents), purchase of alcohol, smoking tobacco, and underage drinking (Juvenile Justice and Delinquency in the United States, Part One, Pg. 4).
Following an arrest of a juvenile, a decision must be made to send the matter further into the justice system or divert the case out of the system into an alternative program. After talking to the victim, the juvenile, their parents, and reviewing the juvenile’s prior contacts with the juvenile justice system as well as academic records and other factors, an Intake Officer makes the decision to dismiss the case, handle the matter informally, or request formal intervention by the juvenile court. Twenty-two percent of all juveniles arrested in 2009 were released after Intake. Seventy percent of those arrested were referred on to juvenile court (Office of Juvenile Justice, n.d.). In Texas, the Intake person making these decisions is a Juvenile Probation Officer. Detention
Juvenile courts may hold delinquents in a secure detention facility if the court believes it is in the best interest of the community or the child. After arrest, a youth is often brought to the local juvenile detention facility by law enforcement. Juvenile probation officers or detention workers review the case and decide if the juvenile should be held pending a hearing by a judge. It is required in all states, that a detention hearing be held within a defined time period, generally within 24 hours. At the detention hearing, a judge reviews the case to determine if continued detention is necessary. The youth may be released or their detention may be continued. In 2009, juveniles were detained in 1 in 5 (21%) cases processed by juvenile courts (Office of Juvenile Justice, n.d.). Something that should be noted as it applies to the juvenile system is that Federal regulations discourage holding juveniles in adult jails and lockups. In instances where law enforcement must detain a juvenile in secure custody for a brief period to contact a parent or to arrange transportation to a juvenile detention facility, Federal regulations require the juvenile be securely detained no longer than 6 hours in an area not within sight or sound of adult inmates (Office of Juvenile Justice, n.d.). The Informal Process
According to the Office of Juvenile Justice, Juvenile Justice System Structure ; Process, about half of all cases referred to juvenile court intake are handled informally. For those cases not dismissed, the juvenile voluntarily agrees to detailed conditions for a specific time period. These conditions are outlined in a written agreement, commonly called a “consent decree.” The conditions may include things such as victim restitution, school attendance, drug counseling, or curfew. In most jurisdictions, a stipulation of the informal disposition is to admit to committing the act. A probation officer often monitors compliance with the conditions of the informal agreement. This process is often referred to as “informal probation.” Upon successfully completing the conditions of the informal probation, the case is dismissed. If, however, the juvenile fails to meet the conditions, the case may be formally prosecuted, and therefore will proceed as it would have if the intake decision had been to refer the case for an adjudicatory hearing. Juvenile or Criminal Court
In many states, prosecutors are required to file certain cases (generally serious) involving juveniles in the criminal courts. In many states, the legislature has given the prosecutor the discretion of filing a specified list of cases in juvenile or adult court. Cases handled in juvenile court, may be filed in two ways: delinquency or waiver. A delinquency petition affirms the allegations and requests the juvenile court to adjudicate (or judge) the youth a delinquent, therefore making the juvenile a ward of the court. In 2009, juveniles were adjudicated delinquent in 59% of the cases petitioned to juvenile court for criminal law violations.
A waiver petition is filed in cases where the intake officer believes that a case would be more appropriately handled in criminal court. The court then reviews the facts of the case and determines there is probable cause to believe the juvenile committed the act. The court then considers whether the matter should be waived and transferred to criminal court. One factor that is often essential in this decision is whether the juvenile is amenable to treatment in the juvenile justice system. The juvenile may have been adjudicated several times in the past and interventions previously ordered by the juvenile court have not prevented the juvenile from committing subsequent criminal acts. The crime may be so serious that juvenile court would not be able to intercede for the time period necessary to rehabilitate the youth. If the judge agrees to the case being transferred to criminal court, juvenile court jurisdiction over the matter is waived and the case is filed in criminal court . Xander L.
Having reviewed the process and structure of the juvenile justice system, we will now review the case of Xander L. Xander is a 17-year-old African American male and documented gang member. He has an extensive juvenile record, which includes previous adjudications of purse snatching, breaking and entering, and drug possession. Xander has been placed on probation twice and has served a year in juvenile detention. His involvement with law enforcement began at the age of 13. Currently, Xander has pled guilty to possession of a concealed weapon. Xander is not currently in school, having dropped out. However, he does display an interest in getting his general equivalency degree (GED) to “make his mother proud.” He appears to have a close relationship with his mother and though she is supportive of her son, she does not condone his behavior. Xander’s father is not a part of his life and his mother works two jobs to support the family.
They currently reside in the housing projects. After reviewing Xander’s case, it is determined by the Intake Officer that a waiver petition be filed to have Xander’s case heard in criminal court. Though Xander claims to want to get his general equivalency degree to impress his mother, the Intake Officer believes he has had ample opportunity to do this. His failure to go to school, along with documented gang affiliation, and several other adjudications resulting in probation and detention indicate a lack of desire to change his behavior. Therefore, this case would be better handled in criminal court. Conclusion
This paper has examined the juvenile justice system process. We have learned that in many juvenile cases diversion gives the juvenile a second chance to address the issues leading to their criminal behaviors. Diversion programs are designed to break the cycle of offending and incarceration. However, sometimes the severity of the crime or other factors make it necessary to petition for a waiver into criminal court and sometimes to be tried as an adult. Though in recent years there has been a push for tougher actions to be taken, for the time being our juvenile process still believes that rehabilitation take priority over punishment when it comes to children.
McGraw Hill. (n.d.). The Juvenile Justice System. Retrieved September 24, 2013, from The Juvenile Justice System: http://highered.mcgraw-hill.com/sites/dl/free/0078111455/831238/tay11455_ch01