17 Mar 2022


Juvenile and Adult Criminal Justice

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In the recent times, many debates have existed on the change and the improvement of the juvenile system. The system has raised many concerns about adaptation to a particular environment where the youth justice system is executed. To be more precise, juvenile system is different from the adult system. Nevertheless, many youths are now committing more serious crimes. This has raised public criticism because the punishment of the teens is considered by the majority of the US citizens as irrelevant regardless of the crime they commit. In such instances, serious crimes committed by these juveniles incite a severe reproach of the modern justice system especially the justice of minors. Nevertheless, the public is not informed of the differences that exist between adult and juvenile offenders. The public is also not aware of the adverse effects of the severe punishment of the youth offenders. If a change occurs regarding the penalty of the juvenile delinquents, a consistent adjustment of the complete juvenile system will also occur hence making it similar to the adult system. When a minor detained and charged for a particular crime, many factors are usually considered during his or her arrest. Such factors include detention, hearing, conviction, judgment, and rehabilitation. In the previous decades, there was no difference between a child and an adult. The criminals were detained as adults. In the last two years, the justice system saw the need of separating the youth and the adult criminals since they have distinct psychological and physiological needs. The separation of these two groups has led to the formation of new rules of each group. However, as said above, delinquents are committing crimes that are more severe, and this has blurred the lines between the two groups. This essay will majorly dwell on the differences between juvenile and adult systems. 

Arrest Terminology

When adults commit crimes, they are usually arrested and jailed. This is the first difference that exists between the adult and criminal justice system. The justice system uses different terminologies in their effort decriminalize the activities of the juveniles. For example, in the juvenile system, the term arrested is not used. Relatively, they use the term “custody.” Detention and custody are two distinct words that describe the same event. In the adult systems, they use the terminology arrested (Bishop, 2000)

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Availability of Bond

When an adult is charged with a particular crime, the adult criminal system is set in such a way that one can be released on bond. A Bond can either be fiscal or non-fiscal it include title, car look book or anything that is of value and one that guarantees that the culprit is present at the court trial. When it comes to the juvenile criminal system, the young delinquents are not entitled to bond. The juveniles are held in charge through the entire court procedure without being offered a bond. However, there are some cases where the juvenile has a right to a bond. This is evident in cases where the juvenile has committed a more serious offense that requires him or her to be shifted to the adult criminal system. 


When it comes to the legal world, the majority of the juveniles have an intricate status. Juveniles do not understand the law as much as adults do. Therefore, they warrant distinct protections. Since they are minors, they do not have a legitimate right that adults have. Majority of the juvenile courts’ trials try to ensure a balance between adults and the juveniles (Pease & Tseloni, 1996). They make an effort to rehabilitate the juvenile offenders. When it comes to the court proceedings, adults are usually accused of crimes whereas juveniles are charged with delinquent acts. Thus, in this case, when juveniles commit a crime, it is not considered as a serious one because they do not have an understanding of the law as adults do. When the juveniles commit serious criminal acts, they may be regarded as delinquencies and the offender may then be tried in the adult system. 

Trial and Pre-trial Processes

For the juveniles, the trial and pretrial processes differ with that of the adults. Juveniles do not receive public trial since they are not adults. The judge is endowed with the power of deciding their cases. The judge rules whether the juvenile is delinquent. This is known as an adjudication trial (Kalinich, Klofas, & Stojkovic 2003). When the judge deems the minor as an offender, the court decides the next action to be taken. On the other hand, adults receive a public trial by the jury since they have a complete understanding of the law. When found guilty, they are punished accordingly. 

The adult systems assure the adult offenders a right to a reasonable bail, specifically in the non-capital cases. For the juvenile systems, a right to bail is usually not accepted in many states. Moreover, the state is allowed to arrest the dangerous delinquents until they face trial. This is referred to as preventive detention (Pease & Tseloni, 1996). When a petition is filed against the adult criminals, they have an opportunity to plead innocent or not innocent. The adults also have another option of indulging themselves in plea negotiation where they plead not innocent to a reduced verdict and with a judgment sanction from the public prosecutor. In the juvenile systems, the youths are not allowed to bargain as being guilty or not guilty. Following the initial hearing, the juvenile offender is supposed to accept or repudiate the actualities of the petition. When the delinquent admits the substantiality of the petition, the court decides the proper sentence. When the juvenile does not accept the facts, the case heads to the trial. Plea negotiation is not allowed in the juvenile courts because they involve fewer sentences and prosecutions. During the proceeding, the juvenile criminal systems have the mandate of transferring the juvenile delinquent to adult courts, and this is regarded as the transfer process. The juvenile systems try people who are below sixteen years whereas the adult system tries individuals who are above eighteen years. Nevertheless, in some cases, the juvenile system is allowed to transfer the juvenile delinquents to the adult systems. Juveniles can face trials as adults when the prosecutor files the charges as more serious (Simmons 2002). When the case is not heard in the pre-trial stage, it is taken to the trial process where the juvenile is prosecuted as an adult. 

Punishment and Rehabilitation

The juvenile system focuses on rehabilitating the young offenders (Kalinich, Klofas, & Stojkovic 2003). The rationale that underlies the juvenile criminal system is that, the juveniles are not the same as adults. The primary goals of the juvenile justice system are community protection, rehabilitation, and treatment. This is done so that the juvenile can continue operating typically in the community (Sigel, 2006). In the juvenile systems, the primary diversionary programs used are probation and parole. Such programs focus on making sure that the juvenile is kept out of jail. The diversionary programs vary among different states. The components of such programs may include community services, counseling, and restitution to the people who have been harmed by the criminal act. The programs tend to provide the juvenile with an education that may help them in the future (White, 2002).This is not the case with the adult justice system. The adult system aims at punishing those who break the law. Adult systems punish the adult offenders by imposing penalties that will reduce the likelihood of a person committing the same mistake in the future. The parole programs in the adult systems are based on observing the illegal behaviors. 


The sentences of the juvenile systems vary with that of the adult criminal systems. In most of the times, a minor is sentenced as delinquent as opposed to guilty. Juvenile systems pass a shorter sentence to the delinquents as opposed to adult systems (Allard & Young 2002). Many juvenile justice systems are individualized and as a result, the type of sentence administered varies in different juvenile systems. Sentencing may also cover a broad range of residential and society-based options. The court’s ruling is usually based on the offense history of the individual and the nature of the crime. The disposition can also occur for an unspecified period (Levitt, 1997). The court can decide to send the delinquent to a certain facility or enroll him or her in a particular program until it is firm that the delinquent has been rehabilitated, or until he or she reaches the age of majority. The court’s ruling may also include a reinstitution element and can be directed at other individuals apart from the offenders such as the delinquent’s parents. The court does all this for the best interest of the delinquent. In the juvenile system, a probation department completes the disposition reports in cases where juveniles are sentenced. This report acts as a vital tool that in deciding the best sentencing choices and treatment plans for the minors. School officials, family members, and the proclamations from the juvenile criminals are often included in the report. As stated before, the role of the sentence is to ensure that the offender is not harmed and keeping the community safe (Allard & Young 2002). Due to this, many states call for the prosecutor to justify his or her sentencing options in a written statement. In some other countries, the prosecutor may place the criminal in the corrections department of the state until the correlation specialists consider the lawbreaker set to return to the society. The situation is different when it comes to the system dealing with adult criminal whom may either be innocent or guilty. The punishment for the offender is made for a period depending on the severity of the offense and his or her criminal history (Grisso & Schwartz, 2000). 

Right to Jury

When the cases go to the trial stage, the adults have a legal right to select a board of their choice to listen to their case. Nevertheless, in the majority of the states, the young delinquents are not entitled to a jury trial unless in rear occasions of bind over. A bind over refers to a proceeding that determines whether the juvenile should face charges as a minor or as an adult. Bind overs mostly occur when severe cases happen such as murder. Thus, most juvenile cases are bench trial meaning that the judge hears them. When the trial ends, the adult is determined whether he is found guilty or innocent. In the juvenile system, when the juvenile is found guilty, they say that he or she is adjudicated (Empey, Stafford, & Hay, 1982)

Privacy and Public

The juvenile justice system is further concerned with the private lives of the young offenders. The background information and any other individual information of the young juveniles is always protected by various law enforcement agencies (Kalinich, Klofas, & Stojkovic 2003). The public does not have any access related to the juvenile delinquents and the delinquencies they may have conducted. The public does not access such records because the juvenile system believes that the young criminals can be rehabilitated successfully and this prevents stigmatization. Further, the court proceedings may also be confidential. This ensures that the privacy of the juveniles is protected. Many courts safeguard the access to the private information of the juvenile offenders. On the contrary, the same does not happen to the adult because the privacy of the offenders is protected. However, the public has access to the secluded information of the offenders concerning their crimes. To be clearer, the access of offender’s private information is not prohibited, and the court events are done in the public. Thus, the adult offenders are less protected as compared to the juvenile delinquents. 

In conclusion, I believe that the juvenile and judicial systems should remain. The juveniles who commit serious crimes should not be tried in the adult courts. When a delinquent commits a serious offense such as theft or drug crime, many people may argue that the juvenile should be taken to adult criminal systems to protect the society. However, this should not be the case because, in adult courts, the minors may receive severe punishment, especially when found guilty as opposed to when they are in juvenile systems (Bishop, 2000). Fair trial systems should be practiced, and thus, the youth should not be tried in the same systems with the adults. Additionally, the youths usually have shorter sentences as opposed to the adults. Thus, when the juvenile system is abolished, it becomes very problematic for the child in cases where he or she has to be detained in an adult facility. The child is supposed to be rehabilitated but not punished. At times, a judge can use his or her power to pass a longer sentence to a particular juvenile, which may be unfair. When one compares juveniles with the adults, they have different maturity and educational levels. Therefore, I take a stance that the juvenile and adult criminal system should remain.  References

Allard, P & Young, M,. (2002). The Sentencing Project Prosecuting Juveniles in Adult Court

Bishop, D. (2000). Juvenile Offenders in the Adult Criminal Justice System: Crime and Justice, 27, 81-167. http://dx.doi.org/10.1086/652199

Empey, L. T., Stafford, M. C., & Hay, C. H,. (1982). American delinquency: Its meaning and construction. Homewood, IL: Dorsey Press.

Grisso, T. E., & Schwartz, R. G,. (2000). Youth on trial: A developmental perspective on juvenile justice: University of Chicago Press.

Kalinich, D., Klofas, J., & Stojkovic, S. (2003). Criminal Justice Organizations Retrieved August 30, 2005, from University of Phoenix Web site: https://mycampus.phoenix.edu/secure/resource/resource.asp

Levitt, S. D. (1997). Juvenile crime and punishment (No. w6191) National Bureau of Economic Research

Pease, K. & Tseloni, A,. (1996). Juvenile-Adult Differences in Criminal Justice: Evidence from the United Nations Crime Survey. The Howard Journal of Criminal Justice, 35(1), 40-47. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-2311.1996.tb00858.x

Siegel, Larry (2006) Juvenile Delinquency, Thomas Learning Inc., CA

Simmons, Adele. (2002). A century of juvenile justice The University of Chicago Press

Snyder, H. N. (1999). Juvenile Arrests, 1998 Juvenile Justice Bulletin

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