Introduction (Psychology and Mental Health)
The first juvenile court was founded in Cook County, Chicago, in 1899. Before that time, children over the age of seven were treated as adults in criminal court. They were tried as adults, sentenced as adults, and served their time in adult facilities. The juvenile court sought to act in the best interest of the child and had the goal of keeping children out of the adult criminal justice system. Early reformers saw the adult criminal system as being harmful to young people and actually being responsible for turning youthful offenders into hardened criminals. These reformers felt that juveniles, because of their age, could be rehabilitated and become contributing citizens.
The juvenile court systems that were established in jurisdictions throughout the United States were very different from the criminal courts that tried adult cases. Unlike criminal courts, juvenile courts do not have the burden of establishing proof beyond a reasonable doubt. The lesser standard of preponderance of evidence is used. Juvenile courts are not open to the public for inspection. This shields the juveniles from the detrimental effects of being known as an offender. The juvenile court process is not meant to be an adversarial process but, much like therapeutic jurisprudence in the adult system, is meant to work toward the outcome that is in the best interest of the juvenile. Historically, the judge has acted more as a parent toward the wayward juvenile...
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Types of Juveniles in the System (Psychology and Mental Health)
The juvenile court system handles three types of juveniles: juvenile criminal offenders, status offenders, and children in need of services. Juvenile criminal offenders are juveniles who have committed actions that would be criminal even for an adult, such as theft, robbery, rape, or murder. In some cases, juvenile cases may be waived, or transferred, to adult court. There are four ways this can occur: judicial waiver (the judge has the power to waive the juvenile to adult court), statutory exclusion (certain offenses are automatically waived to adult court), direct file (prosecutor may request that the case be waived to adult court), and demand waiver (the juvenile’s attorney may request that the case be waived to adult court). The demand waiver is most often done so that the juvenile has access to all constitutional protections afforded to adults. About half of the states place the lower age limit for transfer to adult court at fourteen or fifteen years of age. A significant portion of the remaining states have no lower age limit for transfer to adult court, and children as young as ten and eleven have been tried as adults. However, there are problems with transferring juveniles to adult court. Juveniles who are transferred to adult court have higher rates of recidivism than those who remain in the juvenile court. Juveniles who are sent to adult correctional institutions are more likely to be victimized while...
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Treating Juvenile Offenders (Psychology and Mental Health)
The earlier intervention can begin with a juvenile, the better. Too often, juveniles are not referred for treatment until they have committed several serious offenses; by then rehabilitation is a much more difficult task. The best approach focuses on prevention at one of three stages: before any sort of negative behavior, after some minor negative behavior has occurred but before serious delinquent behavior, and after serious delinquent behavior has begun.
Programs may be geared toward youths in general and may focus on building strengths and resiliency. These aim at helping youths to be the best they can be and to never engage in delinquent behavior. Resiliency research looks at ways to make delinquency less likely by helping young people to focus on their strengths rather than their deficits. Programs can help young people develop skills in academics, sports, and the arts.
Prevention programs may focus on young people who have committed less serious offenses, often status offenses—skipping school or running away. The goal is to prevent any more serious delinquent behavior from occurring. Research has shown that the single most predictive factor in later delinquency is school failure. Interventions designed to help young people succeed in school, reduce truancy, and remain in school can be highly successful. Juveniles who run away, especially female juveniles, often do so to avoid abuse within the home....
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Myths of Juvenile Delinquency (Psychology and Mental Health)
Not only the general public but also many criminal justice students believe that juvenile crime rates are rising and spiraling out of control. In fact, there was a steady increase in juvenile crimes until the mid-1990’s, at which time the rates began to fall. These rates had been falling steadily until 2004. There has been a minor increase in some types of juvenile offending, but the rates are still very much below the rates of the mid-1990’s. Experts predict that juvenile delinquency, like all other forms of crime, will increase somewhat because of the recession that started in 2008, because there is some correlation between economic conditions and crime.
While juvenile crime rates were rising in the early 1990’s, many people feared that younger and younger juveniles were committing more and more violent and serious crimes. However, even as juvenile crime rates were on the rise, most juvenile offenses were property crimes and not violent offenses. One outcome of this myth was that it became more common to waive juveniles to adult court.
A common misconception is that waiver to adult court is used to process only the most serious and violent juvenile offenders. Statistically, however, more than half of juvenile offenders who are subject to waiver have committed property crimes and not violent offenses. Far from serving as a deterrent to these or other juveniles, being sent to an adult facility...
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Sources for Further Study (Psychology and Mental Health)
Ellis, Rodney A., and Karen M. Sowers. Juvenile Justice Practice: A Cross-Disciplinary Approach to Intervention. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage Publications, 2001. This text examines a variety of interventions for juveniles. An especially useful book because it addresses issues of gender, race, and ethnicity. It also looks at best practices in the field.
Fuller, John Randolph. Juvenile Delinquency: Mainstream and Crosscurrents. Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Pearson/Prentice Hall, 2009. Examines biological, sociological, and psychological theories regarding juvenile delinquency, the family, female delinquents, and the juvenile justice system.
Howell, J. C. Preventing and Reducing Juvenile Delinquency: A Comprehensive Framework. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage Publications, 2003. The focus of this book is the juvenile court system and processes. Presents current research concerning programs that focus on the prevention and control of delinquency.
Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. http://ojjdp.ncjrs.org. This federal office provides support to state and local organizations that deal with juveniles in the form of resources, leadership, and grants.
Sharp, P. M., and B. W. Hancock. Juvenile Delinquency: Historical, Theoretical, and Societal Reactions to Youth. 2d ed. Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 1998. Contains both contemporary as well as...
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Juvenile Delinquency (Encyclopedia of Psychology)
Chronic antisocial behavior by persons 18 years of age or younger that is beyond parental control and is often subjected to legal and punitive action.
According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the arrest rate of American juveniles (persons 18 years of age or younger) committing violent crimes increased from 137 percent in 1965 to 430 percent in 1990. While teenagers are the population most likely to commit crimes, their delinquency is related to the overall incidence of crime in society: teen crime increases as adult crime does. The majority of violent teenage crime is committed by males. While the same delinquency rates are attributed to both whites and nonwhites, nonwhites have a higher arrest rate.
In spite of the emotional turbulence associated with adolescence, most teenagers find legal, nonviolent ways to express feelings of anger and frustration and to establish self-esteem. Nonetheless, some teenagers turn to criminal activity for these purposes and as a reaction to peer pressure. A number of factors have been linked to the rise in teen crime, including family violence. Parents who physically or verbally abuse each other or their children are much more likely to raise children who will commit crimes. In a study conducted in 1989, for...
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