A Critique of the Juvenile Justice Policy Reform

Juvenile Justice Policy Reform

It is a disturbing fact that the number of delinquency cases handled by juvenile courts increased 43% between 1985 and 2000 (Office of Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevention, 2000). According to Snyder (2000), “Delinquency offences are acts committed by juveniles that would be crimes if committed by adults.” (OJJDP, 2000). Here is the question to discuss. VWhat causes these youth to behave the way to get involved in the illegal acts, and who and how to deal with this problem? Indeed, this paper will discuss about the approaches and legal mechanisms that address the issue of juvenile delinquency.

Apparently, juvenile justice policy has been swinging between different approaches throughout its history of development and implementation. (Jenson & Howard, 1998).

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According to Bernard (1992) the first institutions to treat juveniles separately from adults was established in 1825 (as cited in Jenson & Howard, 1998). Then, in 1899, the first juvenile court was opened that processed juveniles cases. From there on, the juvenile justice system was gradually putting an emphasis on rehabilitative approach until 1960s adopting sOCial casework and psychotherapy (Jenson & Howard, 1998).

During the 1960s, legal rights for juveniles were expanded to due process consideration, which include the rights to counsel and protection against self-incrimination. Consequently, juvenile court procedures became similar to criminal justice proceedings (Jenson & Howard, 1998). In addition, as it was pointed out by Krisberg and Austin in 1993, “state training schools for delinquents had become large, inefficient and costly” (as cited in Jenson and Howard, 1998). Martinson (1974) stated that the institutions were ineffective in reducing recidivism (as cited in Jenson & Howard, 1998).

Obviously, this is when the concepts of deinstitutionlization and community-based programs were introduced to the juvenile justice policy. It appears that during 1970s and 1980s, the juvenile court has endeavored to retain a balance between rehabilitating and punishing offenders (Jenson & Howard, 1998). In 1974, the federal government enacted Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act that promoted the least restrictive placement for young offenders, establishment of programs at community level, custodial institutions, and diversion of youths from formal juvenile justice system processing. In view of that, all states adopted the policy of decriminalization and deinstitutionalization between 1970 and 1985. Rehabilitation and individualized treatment were more in favor over the punishment.

Moreover, several studies reveal that community-based treatment reduced recidivism (Jenson &Howard, 1998). Since 1985, the juvenile justice policy has changed its approach to punishment and control of juvenile delinquents, which was caused by the nature of the crime committed by youth and the political climate. It seems that several changes occurred accordingly: juveniles could be tried aas adults, harsher punishments for drug-and-gang related offences (Office of Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevention, 2000), and less emphasis on community-based programs etc. (Jenson & Howard, 1998). Based on the above facts, it can be argued that there is less focus on preventive approaches.

However, Jenson and Howard stated, “The strength of the juvenile justice system lies in its ability to balance policies of preventon, rehabilitation and punishment.(1998, p.324) Williams, Ayers & Arthur (1997) pointed out that poverty, lack of family stability, antisocial peer influence, low interest in school, and substance abuse were the conditions that place youth at risk of delinquency (Jenson & Howard, 1998). Theretore, it is important to address the underlying causes of juvenile delinquency. The word boils down here is prevention. In other words, appropriate measures need to be taken out before a child gets involved in the illegal acts.. chemers (1995) informed that the OJJDP and the Administration on Children, Youth and Families (ACYF) had been exploring ways to coordinate their own programs and help states and Communities build a continuum oT services aimed at prevention and eany intervention.

Four programs were administered by the two agencies that include Family Preservation and support Services, State Court Improvement Program, childrens Justice ACt, and Delinquency Prevention incentive Grants. The programs address multiple needs of vulnerable children and their families who are experiencing, orat risk for, abuse and neglect, which cannot be addressed adequately through categorical programs and fragmented services delivery systems. In addition, it should be mentioned that the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act of 2002 required action regarding the connections between juvenile justice and child welfare systems (Summary of the key provisions, 2004).

Anumber of interventions that prioritize preventive approach have been suggested that include community-based and risk focused programs (Hawkins and Catalano, 1992) and economic development efforts in high-risk neighborhoods (Jenson and Howard, 1998). If no ways to prevent and if it comes to punishment, offending history and individual needs should be looked at that would demand for improved assessment and matched strategies (Jenson and Howard, 1998). One thing that one should always bear in mind is that every child’s circumstance and life experience IS different. I addition, what led them to commit a crime is different. Thus, which approach works with which child is a chalenge.

However, one should be aware of all three approaches that are prevention, renabilitation and punishment and promote their balance in juvenile justice system. Moreover, interaction and collaboration of juvenile justice and child weltare systems are vital to better serve those youth. Finally, my belief is that it is not an easy decision for a child and a youth to become an offender and there should always be a serious reason that gradually leads them to act illegally.


  1. Chemers, B.M. (1995). Bridging the child welfare and juvenile justice system. Juvenile Justice Bulletin, (U.S. Department of Justice Bulletin).
  2. Washington D.C.: Government printing office. Children and the U.S. justice system. (n.d). Retrieved April 20, 2004, from http://www.amnestyusa.org/rightsforalljuvenile/ Jenson, J.M., & Howard, M.O. (1998).
  3. Youth crime, public policy. and practice in the juvenile justice system: recent trends and needed reforms. Social Work, 43 (4) 324-335 Office of Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevention. (2000). Retrieved April 20, 2004, from http://www.ojdp.ncjrs.org/
  4. Summary of the key provisions regarding the connection between child welfare and juvenile justice systems. (2004). Retrieved April 21, 2004, from http://www.cwla.org/

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A Critique of the Juvenile Justice Policy Reform. (2023, Feb 26). Retrieved from https://paperap.com/a-critique-of-the-juvenile-justice-policy-reform/

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