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Juvenile vs. Adult Courts
The juvenile and adult courts and correctional systems in Delaware are different in their manner of handling juvenile and adult criminal offenses. To begin with, juveniles are young people below 18 years of age who commit delinquent acts while adults commit crimes (Hamblen, 2020). Juvenile correctional systems argue that young people differ from adults developmentally and so the main focus of these correctional systems is rehabilitation and treatment. There are fundamental differences in the manner juvenile and adult criminal cases are treated, which has some benefits.
Notably, misdemeanor case are only by a judge, and felony charges are heard by a judge unless the defendant does not accept a plea then they will be tried by the trial of a selected jury. In juvenile delinquent acts, they are determined by a judge. Adult criminal proceedings are open to the public but those of the juvenile are closed, to limit public access to delinquent acts and facilitate rehabilitation. It is easier for expungement to happen in juvenile courts than in adult courts. In the case of adult court, the rules of procedure are strictly observed while the rules are relaxed in juvenile courts. Also, the county where an adult committed the crime is where the trial will happen but the residence can happen elsewhere in the case of juvenile court systems.
Indeed, the juvenile courts are more relaxed and favorable than the adult courts. Because young people are more malleable than adults, proper treatment and rehabilitation can help a young person to change behavior positively. The challenge with categorizing juveniles and adult criminal processes differently means that some youth can take advantage of the more graceful approach taken by juvenile correctional systems. As far as public policy considerations are concerned, it would be prudent to improve and increase juvenile rehabilitation facilities. Some of the facilities serve too many youths, while others are built to resemble prisons. It would also be important to reach out to the communities to advocate and empower the youth.
Delaware Courts. (n.d.). Criminal Cases in the Family Court. Retrieved June 14, 2021, from https://courts.delaware.gov/help/proceedings/fc_criminal.aspx#juvenile
Hamblen, K. (2020, January 15). Juvenile vs. Adult Criminal System. LegalMatch Law Library. https://www.legalmatch.com/law-library/article/juvenile-vs-adult-criminal-system.html
What are some advantages of having a separate system?
Considering the advantages that having a separate system provides, several things come to mind. First, in the majority of adult facilities, juvenile offenders are not “forced” to partake in education whereas, at a juvenile facility have to (The Atlantic, 2018). Another advantage is the structure that is put into place within juvenile facilities. The structure I feel is very important for juveniles because more than likely, that is how they are in the current situation (The Atlantic, 2018). Perhaps the home life isn’t structured, and no one to look at for guidance. They are able to see that there is more to life than gangs, crimes, and violence. Within a juvenile center, there are different treatments/therapies that can be done more than the adult facilities. Last, ” Finally, parents of juveniles in secure and nonsecure facilities also have rights to communicate with their child and be updated by the facility staff on their child’s medical, educational, and behavioral plan and progress while in the facility (Slater & Finck, n.d.).”
Are there any disadvantages?
Sadly, this is kind of a double edge sword. Even though it can be good to have separate systems, it does not show the juveniles what could happen. Since the juvenile and adult system are much different, the juveniles may not take it as seriously. This is very true depending on the crime as well. Something else to keep in mind, are the youth that is in the system for doing a more petty crime learning from those who did a much more serious crime?
What public policy considerations do you have for each position?
There needs to be a way to show the juveniles truly what can happen if their ways are not changed. This is definitely a hard task to do but, it would be beneficial down the road for a lot of juvenile offenders. Some of these offenders probably have family in and out of the system, so it is not providing a positive example.
There needs to be better rehabilitation for youth offenders, based on the crime severity (Sawyer, 2018). There are different rehab and convictions for those who did armed robbery/murder over someone who stole or did a lower-level crime. Being able to rehabilitate the youth at such a young age needs to be the goal.
Sawyer, W. (2018, February 27). Youth Confinement: The Whole Pie. Youth Confinement: The Whole Pie | Prison Policy Initiative. https://www.prisonpolicy.org/reports/youth2018.html.
Slater, L. K., & Finck, K. R. (n.d.). Social Work Practice and the Law. Retrieved from https://platform.virdocs.com/r/s/0/doc/435417/sp/1…
YouTube. (2018). Inside Juvenile Detention. YouTube.
Having a separate justice system for adults and juveniles has several advantages, but also some drawbacks. First and foremost, it protects minors from being physically and sexually abused by adult offenders (Kramer, 2018). Also, any detention/incarceration should be geared toward rehabilitation to prevent recidivism, and this is easier to accomplish with juvenile and adult offenders in separate facilities. However, many point out that juvenile offenders are released from detention upon reaching the age of 18 or 21, regardless of their crime and how much time they spent in detention because their offense cannot be carried over into an adult prison system. Some critics say this is not justice for the victim and that justice should be the focus when a crime was committed, regardless of the offender’s age.
I believe there is merit to the separation of juvenile and adult justice systems, especially if detention/incarceration is to be involved. It would likely be counterproductive and very harmful to house juvenile and adult inmates in the same facilities. However, there is an argument to be made that juvenile courts should not be separate, yet I would still argue on behalf of separation due to the nature of adolescence. Certain behaviors deemed pathological or criminal among adults are normal among adolescents and should be treated with discretion. Nevertheless, there should be a review process in place for serious crimes committed by minors who are about to become adults. The purpose of this review process would be to determine if the offender should remain in custody or be released without charge. In the case of serious felonies with clear victims such as murder, rape, or robbery, this may better address the pursuit of justice. Perhaps the standard should be that community service must still be served for the duration of their sentence beyond the point at which adulthood is reached. This prevents incarceration for juvenile crimes but still allows for a sentence to be served in its entirety.
Kramer, L. (2018). Pros and cons of the juvenile justice system. Legal Beagle. https://legalbeagle.com/7207962-pros-cons-juvenile…
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