Juvenile Justice in the United States

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For my research paper, I decided to study juvenile justice in the United States and how certain aspects differ in other countries. I felt that this would be a good topic to research because many countries do things completely different from one another. Not all follow the same procedures and laws that we do.

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Because of this, I thought it would be interesting to see how a few select countries handle juvenile delinquents compared to our legal system and to see which are the harshest in terms of punishment. To begin, I will break down how the United States handles most cases concerning juveniles and how they go through the justice system, followed by the different ways other countries may do things.

Before I start, I thought it would be good to define what juvenile delinquency is as well as give a brief overview of what makes this a problem. Our text defines juvenile delinquency as a violation of the law by a person; Violation of the law by any youth which is handled by juvenile courts; by juvenile court jurisdiction; whatever the juvenile court believes should be brought within its jurisdiction; violation of and state or local law or ordinance by anyone who has not yet achieved the age of their majority (Benekos, Champion, Merlo, 2016). Basically, juvenile delinquency is a problem because youth break the rules with little consequence. They learn that they will receive light punishments simply because they are young, and this makes them think it is acceptable. This often leads them down a dark path that ultimately lands them in jail.

In the U.S., we see juveniles as the next generation. They are our hope for a better future. So, when many decide to commit crimes and break the law, we treat them far differently than the average criminal. Why do we do this? The answer is simple. We have to look at their potential for rehabilitation. They are less blame worthy and they have a greater capacity for change. Most youths commit misdemeanors and petty crimes. The majority of these crimes do not merit jail time. For those that do, a lighter sentence is often given in hopes that the offender will see the error of their ways and understand that change is needed to better themselves. Adults who commit crimes are often past this point, not caring about rehabilitation and focusing solely on what they want. They are much harder to reach and will often return to crime.

The first juvenile court was established in Cook County, Illinois in 1899. By the mid-1920s, every state in the country had established a separate system of criminal justice designed to acknowledge those differences called the juvenile justice system. Originally, the court process was informal”often nothing more than a conversation between the youth and the judge”and the defendant lacked legal representation.

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