Name differences and similarities between the juvenile justice system and the criminal justice system.  Overall, are they more similar or different?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I would argue that the juvenile justice system and the criminal justice system are more different than they are alike.  There are some similarities between the two, but they are outweighed by the differences.

There are some important similarities between the two systems.  They include:

  • Both juveniles and adults who are arrested have the right to be given Miranda warnings.
  • Both have the right to an attorney.
  • Both systems are adversarial, with prosecutors and defense attorneys representing the opposing sides.
  • Both juveniles and adults can be kept in detention pending trial if they are deemed dangerous.
  • In both systems, guilt must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

While these similarities are important, I would argue that the differences outweigh them. These differences include:

  • The main point of the juvenile justice system is to treat and rehabilitate offenders, not to punish them.
  •  Juvenile court proceedings are usually less formal that adult court proceedings. This includes the fact that evidence can be admitted in juvenile court that would be excluded from adult courts.
  • Juvenile court proceedings are generally not open to the public. Part of what makes them private is that many states do not even allow jury trials for juveniles.
  • Juveniles cannot be punished as harshly as adults and their records are sealed once they reach adulthood.
  • Both juveniles and adults can be incarcerated if found guilty.

In my view, these differences outweigh the similarities because the two systems have such different goals. The juvenile system is aimed at treating and rehabilitating, so it works in a completely different way than the adult system.  There is somewhat less focus on technical guilt and there is more focus on involving families and otherwise rehabilitating offenders. The one system is meant to try to help the offender while the other is meant to punish them. This makes them, in my mind, more different than they are similar.