Deciding how to handle juvenile offenders is a complex and emotional process. The challenge is a persistent issue for parents and guardians, with recent statistics reporting over 55,000 youth arrests in a year.
The justice systems of adults and juveniles have fundamental differences. Such distinctions can make all the difference in how courts handle a crime.
The stated focus of adult and juvenile justice systems
The primary focus of the adult justice system is punishing individuals for their offenses. In contrast, the stated purpose of the juvenile justice system is primarily rehabilitative. Courts intend to help errant young people become productive members of society again.
This rehabilitation-oriented approach may sound lenient. Still, courts have numerous ways to harshly punish juvenile offenders or even try them as adults. Various states permit courts to try youths as adults depending on the severity of their offense. Additionally, some jurisdictions allow prosecutors to move cases from juvenile court to adult court at any age for specific criteria.
Punishments and rehabilitation for juveniles
When juvenile courts convict minors, punishments may include compensating others, probation or confinement in a detention center. Some youths receive house arrest with electronic monitoring. Time in treatment centers, community service, drug testing, counseling services and educational programs are other remedies courts may assign.
Both adult and juvenile justice systems take crime seriously. The final ruling often depends on the sitting judge and the facts of a case. Even though courts intend to treat juveniles differently than adults, circumstances can result in strikingly similar consequences.