To what degree should a youth's home life influence the decision to declare him or her a delinquent?

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pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

I assume that you are asking about the degree to which the juvenile justice system should take a youth's home life into account when deciding whether or not to formally file a petition charging the youth with an offense.   If so, I would argue that it should play a major decision.

The whole point of the juvenile justice system should be to try to make sure that youths do not end up becoming adult criminals.  The system should do whatever is best for the youths--whatever will be most likely to help them be upstanding citizens as adults.

For this reason, the system should take home life into account.  It should not formally bring youths from solid families into the system if it can help it.  Such youths are fairly likely to be set straight by their families and would only be harmed by bringing them into the system.

This is, in a sense, unfair to those from bad home situations because it may rob them of their freedom while letting more privileged youths go free.  However, it seems possible that contact with the system could help youths from bad home situations whereas it would possibly harm those from good homes.

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elmk99's profile pic

elmk99 | College Teacher | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted on

While your question raises a valid point for any judge to consider when determining or not whether to charge a juvenile with a crime, I believe that the key word of your issue is "should". Unfortunately in circumstances such as these, a judge is usually not required to take into account anything other than whether or not the juvenile committed the crime or not. However in most juvenile situation a judge, when determining a punishment will take into account any mitigating factor that has been brought to his attention. In charging the juvenile, it is going to be a call of a prosecutor in using his discretion whether or not to pursue a charge on the offender based on whether or not he can get a certain conviction of that offense by a judge. Long answer short, most state statues do not require that a juveniles home life be considered in charging or sentencing an offender. If anything, it is solely discretionary for the prosecutor or judge to even use the factor, and then to what extent they will consider the home life.

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