Even though the juvenile justice system in the US has been in place for more than 100 years, questions about its necessity can still be heard among experts and enthusiasts. In the 1990s, increased access to guns and drugs, together with gang activity, led to a significant rise in serious crimes among the youth (Mallett, & Tedor, 2018). The fear of “super predators” led to the emergence of a “tough on crime policy,” which started to process juvenile offenders through a criminal justice system. Today, critics of the juvenile justice system claim that it failed to provide rehabilitation in the majority of cases and released many offenders after several years in the correction facility even though they were a threat to society (Mallett, & Tedor, 2018). Thus, there is an opinion that the juvenile justice system should be abolished as it helps violent offenders escape punishment for their actions (Mallett, & Tedor, 2018). While these arguments may be valid, there are counterarguments that should be considered.
First, children under 18 are treated differently in every other sphere of society due to their special characteristics. Treating juvenile offenders as adults would be inconsistent, as society views children as unable to understand the consequences of their actions (Mallett, & Tedor, 2018). Second, a separate juvenile justice system is crucial for young people who committed minor offenses to avoid the stigma associated with processing in the criminal justice system. According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation (2018), recidivism among the youth is lower if offenders are diverted from court proceedings. Finally, the juvenile justice system helps to avoid labeling young people early in life and engendering difficulties in obtaining employment and in negotiating other aspects of life. Thus, a separate juvenile justice system is vital for improving outcomes among adolescent offenders.
Annie E. Casey Foundation. (2018). Transforming juvenile probation: A vision for getting it right. The Annie E. Casey Foundation.
Mallett, C., & Tedor, M. (2018). Juvenile delinquency: Pathways and Prevention. Sage Publications.