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Juvenile Courts - Criticisms And Conflicts

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Despite efforts by the federal government to help curb juvenile crime rates, the 1980s experienced an increase in serious crimes committed by youths. "Between 1985 and 1995, the juvenile arrest rate for violent crimes rose 69 percent. For murders it rose 96 percent," according to Dan Carney reporting in the Congressional Quarterly. Critics of the juvenile court system blame the rise of drug use, specifically crack cocaine which triggered turf drug wars, an increase in handguns available on the streets and to youths, and the juvenile justice system for not making children aware of the consequences of their crimes.

Reforms are demanded of the system, especially by victims of juvenile criminals who express frustration with the way young criminals are handled. When a child is charged with robbery and assault or attempted murder, but is placed on probation and in the custody of parents who fail to supervise the child, victims see a great injustice being served. More and more opponents of the juvenile court system are calling for waiver of serious crimes to the adult court system. Others disagree saying this will stigmatize the youth as a lost cause and encourage continued criminal behavior. They argue that youths tried in adult courts do not necessarily receive longer or tougher sentences because it is a first offense in criminal court, despite the number of appearances for the same or similar offenses in juvenile court. Still others argue the entire juvenile court system should be abolished and all juveniles sentenced in adult courts. Individual states continue to try different methods to curb the high rate of juvenile delinquency. Where one state finds success, others implement the same procedure all in an effort to best protect and meet the needs of America's children.

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