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Juvenile Justice - The Future Of Juvenile Justice

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Public support for a separate juvenile system declined in the late twentieth century. Critics argued they should be abolished, claiming juvenile courts coddled youthful offenders and rehabilitation was ineffective in many individuals. Critics further claimed the courts were established only to handle status offenses such as truancy, not the violent mass murders of the late twentieth century.

Youthful offenders, critics believed, should be punished according to their crimes, just like adults. If offenders believed juvenile courts would not hold them fully responsible for their crimes, they would be more likely to commit serious crimes. Juveniles who were confined for serious crimes were released by age twenty-one or even eighteen, serving far shorter sentences than adults who committed the same offense. Critics of the juvenile justice system believed the age of an offender should be a factor, but only on an individual basis during sentencing.

Defenders of juvenile courts claimed youth crime rates have decreased and the court system should not be judged on the highly publicized violent acts of a few, such as the school shootings of the late 1990s. They claimed the court system allows judges to transfer the most violent offenders to adult courts, which did occur on an increasing basis by the early 2000s. Supporters further remarked that since children are treated differently than adults in every other part of society, it should be the same in the criminal justice system as well.

Juvenile justice defenders believed exposing youthful offenders to the violent world of adult prisons increased the potential of future criminal behavior. Rather than pay for a juvenile to be imprisoned, the funding would be better spent on rehabilitation programs, including education and job training. Instead of branding youthful offenders as adult convicted criminals, give them the chance to learn from their mistakes. Statistics showed youths who went through juvenile courts had lower rates of returning to criminal behavior than those who went through adult courts. Most importantly, supporters of juvenile justice believed society had to address the basic social and economic causes of juvenile crime while still holding violent offenders accountable for their actions.


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