Juvenile Justice System and Practices in the US

An Introduction

Put simply, juvenile justice is concerned with children and youngsters who are younger than a particular age (most commonly, 18). From the perspective of our society, underage offenders are more vulnerable than adult ones and have specific needs. As a result, they require additional protections, which is why they are handled differently than adults. While preliminary forms of juvenile justice have existed since before the US did, the Juvenile Court Act of 1899 was what marked its progress in the US (Siegel & Worrall, 2016). Modern juvenile systems are the primary topic of this presentation, and policing is the first system to review.

Juvenile and Adult Policing Terminology

It is noteworthy that juvenile justice uses specific terminology, which mostly aims to reduce the stigma associated with criminal behaviors. When policing is concerned, minors are not called criminals; instead, they and their behaviors are labeled as “delinquent.” In addition, their arresting is referred to as “taking into custody.” However, certain offenses committed by minors are not delinquent; status offenses, in particular, merely describe the behaviors which are considered inappropriate for minors but are not an offense for adults (Siegel & Worrall, 2016, p. 587).


Juvenile justice policing is less structured than that of adults because the police are meant to decide whether an intervention is required or not. Alternatives to custody include warnings or referrals to another service; also, the police are expected to contribute to the prevention of offenses whenever possible. Thus, a child committing a minor offense (especially a status one) who does not appear to be in need of any treatment and does not demonstrate worrying signs is unlikely to be detained.


In addition, the treatment of minors naturally differs because of their vulnerability. There are no specific federal requirements, but it is common for juvenile custody to be less strict than adult arresting, and the Miranda rights are explained to a child in greater detail with an adult supervisor, for example, a parent. Interrogation also occurs with supervision, but the methods are the same as with adults (Siegel & Worrall, 2016).

Due Process

After the policing system, it makes sense to consider court systems. They also employ particular terminology; thus, minors do not plead guilty, for example, but “agree to a finding,” and their incarceration is labeled as “disposition” (Siegel & Worrall, 2016, p. 587). Minors are provided with all the relevant rights and protections that adults have. However, they also have some additional protections because of their vulnerability.

Juvenile and Adult Court Systems: Due Process, Cases, and Other Factors

Thus, minors are once again informed about their rights with particular care given the fact that young people may have more trouble grasping the details. Also, certain sentences are out of the question, including capital punishment. Furthermore, more informal juvenile courts typically take greater precautions aimed at protecting a child’s identity. Unlike adults, children’s confidentiality is paramount in court proceedings.

Juvenile and Adult Court Systems: Other Factors

Other differences include the fact that juveniles may be handled by special youth-focused courts, can be released into parental custody prior to the hearing, and, in general, have their parents involved to a greater extent than adults. Overall, there are differences between juvenile and adult courts that are intended to provide greater protection.

That said, minors can be handled by adult courts if it is determined that the juvenile system cannot handle them. The protections related to the impossibility of particular sentencing stand even if this case. Also, children can be placed into adult facilities, as well as other ill-equipped ones, and it is a major problem that reduces minors’ chances for rehabilitation. However, this issue is more pertinent to the corrections systems.

Juvenile and Adult Corrections Systems: Goals

A major difference between juvenile and adult systems is concerned with the way their correction systems work. Simply put, when concerned with underage people, corrections are focused on the goal of rehabilitation for needy minors while taking into account the importance of managing repeat and dangerous offenders (Robinson & Kurlychek, 2019). As a result, when an individual minor is viewed as unmanageable within the juvenile justice system, they might be transferred to adult facilities, which, as it was mentioned is generally not very beneficial for them (Siegel & Worrall, 2016).


When a minor remains in a juvenile corrections system, special terminology may once again apply, and it mostly is concerned with different names for detention facilities. That said, most often, minors are not detained in facilities; rather, probation is the most common approach to dealing with them. There are multiple advantages to probation: it typically does not involve removing a child from their family and community but still provides the necessary structure, supervision, and control. However, in certain cases, it is not an option.

Indeed, when a young offender is deemed too dangerous or unmanageable, institutionalization is the primary option. It provides increased control, which is necessary for high-risk minors, but it does result in overcrowded facilities, additional costs, and, most importantly, the removal of the minor from their family. It is paramount for such institutions to focus on rehabilitation; otherwise, they will not be effective in preventing future offenses.

Furthermore, after being institutionalized, youths require what is termed as aftercare. Basically, it assists a minor with re-integration into the society, for example, by offering support, counseling, training, and by working with parents and communities.

Evidence-based Practices

Given the significance of juvenile justice for our community, it is crucial that it uses evidence-based practices. In other words, the practices of juvenile justice need to be based on research-supported evidence. However, one may notice that the evidence on the topic of juvenile justice is often contradictory. For example, a common practice is family involvement, which presupposes working with both parents and offenders to help them develop crucial skills that would assist in preventing future delinquency (Graham, 2018). An example of a program that is evidenced to have a positive effect on parenting skills is described by Coatsworth et al. (2015).

However, Turner et al. (2019) focus on potential negative factors that can stop such programs from affecting people or preventing reoffending. In other words, depending on the program or other factors, family involvement may not be as effective as desired.

Similarly, skill training may or may not have positive effects. The point in providing skill training is to offer minors an opportunity to develop crucial abilities like anger management or problem-solving that should prevent delinquent behaviors. The practice can result in improvements, as shown by Stouwe et al. (2018). However, Brännström et al. (2016) note that the quality of related literature could be better. Given that individual programs may not receive much attention from researchers, more investigation into juvenile justice practice is required.

Indeed, another example of a practice that is evidence-based but may need more research is restorative justice. It focuses on helping offenders take responsibility for their actions and try to make amends. However, as pointed out by Bouffard et al. (2017), there are different approaches to restorative justice, and they need to be studied in detail. The article by Bouffard et al. (2017) suggests that some of the methods prove to be effective, which indicates that the practice is evidence-based. However, as more research on the topic is conducted, better options for youths may be developed. In summary, juvenile justice systems do their best to offer sufficient protections for young offenders while providing them with the opportunity for rehabilitation, but it is a still evolving field that may change over time.


Bouffard, J., Cooper, M., & Bergseth, K. (2017). The effectiveness of various restorative justice interventions on recidivism outcomes among juvenile offenders. Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice, 15(4), 465-480. Web.

Brännström, L., Kaunitz, C., Andershed, A., South, S., & Smedslund, G. (2016). Aggression replacement training (ART) for reducing antisocial behavior in adolescents and adults: A systematic review. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 27, 30-41. Web.

Coatsworth, J. D., Duncan, L. G., Nix, R. L., Greenberg, M. T., Gayles, J. G., Bamberger, K. T.,… Demi, M. A. (2015). Integrating mindfulness with parent training: Effects of the mindfulness-enhanced strengthening families program. Developmental Psychology, 51(1), 26-35. Web.

Graham, W. (2018). Evidence-based practices for juveniles in the juvenile justice system. In G. Patterson & W. Graham (Eds.), Clinical interventions in criminal justice settings (pp. 99-120). New York, NY: Academic Press.

Robinson, K., & Kurlychek, M. (2019). Differences in justice, differences in outcomes: A DID approach to studying outcomes in juvenile and adult court processing. Justice Evaluation Journal, 2(1), 35-49. Web.

Siegel, L., & Worrall, J. (2016). Introduction to criminal justice (16th ed.). Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.

Stouwe, T., Asscher, J., Hoeve, M., Laan, P., & Stams, G. (2018). Social skills training (SST) effects on social information processing skills in justice-involved adolescents: Affective empathy as predictor or moderator. Children and Youth Services Review, 90, 1-7. Web.

Turner, C., Robbins, M., Winokur Early, K., Blankenship, J., & Weaver, L. (2019). Juvenile justice risk factors and functional family therapy fidelity on felony recidivism. Criminal Justice and Behavior, 46(5), 697-717. Web.

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"Juvenile Justice System and Practices in the US." LawBirdie, 27 Mar. 2023, lawbirdie.com/juvenile-justice-system-and-practices-in-the-us/.


LawBirdie. (2023) 'Juvenile Justice System and Practices in the US'. 27 March.


LawBirdie. 2023. "Juvenile Justice System and Practices in the US." March 27, 2023. https://lawbirdie.com/juvenile-justice-system-and-practices-in-the-us/.

1. LawBirdie. "Juvenile Justice System and Practices in the US." March 27, 2023. https://lawbirdie.com/juvenile-justice-system-and-practices-in-the-us/.


LawBirdie. "Juvenile Justice System and Practices in the US." March 27, 2023. https://lawbirdie.com/juvenile-justice-system-and-practices-in-the-us/.