6 Jun 2022


The Juvenile Justice System: How It Works

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Academic level: College

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1. How do states define the purpose of their juvenile justice system? 

The juvenile justice system is defined as the primary system which handles criminal offences committed by the youth. State juvenile systems are concerned with youth who are accused of acts considered crimes if committed by adults. In all 45 states, the maximum age of juvenile court jurisdiction is 17 years of age expect five states where the age limit was lowered to 16. States operate through a purpose clause which is written in the form of a statute and defines the intention of the legislature of the state’s juvenile justice system. According to various states, the purpose of the juvenile justice system is to promote public safety and meet the treatment needs of the youth with the goal of rehabilitation. The system ensures that the youth involved with crimes at an early age and incorporated in the juvenile justice system can still have meaningful lives. The system is included in the maintenance of their rights, freedoms, access to education, appropriate treatment and opportunities to become healthy and productive adults in their communities. Thus, the primary goals of the juvenile system include the maintenance of public safety, skill development, habilitation and rehabilitation. It also includes meeting treatment needs and ensuring that the youth are successfully reintegrated into their communities.

2. How do states operate delinquency services (detention, community supervision, and reentry)? 

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The juvenile justice system operates similarly with the criminal justice system in processes such as arrest, detainment, appeals, hearings, judgments, dispositions, settlement, probation, and reentry into the community. However, the procedures of a juvenile justice system differ from those used in criminal cases. The juvenile system ensues that the police prosecutors and minor officials such as juvenile judges approach the process with discretion and use more informal procedures in handling the case. The constitutional rights of juveniles also differ from the rights of adults in various ways. For example, states offer secure detention to minors who are accused of law violations and are at risk to re-offend before their next court date or may fail to appear in court. The core purpose is ensuring that the juvenile system promotes public safety and reduces juvenile delinquency. The state operates delinquency services such as community supervision by promoting individual accountability and responsibility. The system has also closed juvenile hearings and records to protect juveniles from stigma and ensure that they reentry into the community is unhindered.

3. How are supervision (probation) services operated in each state? 

According to the juvenile justice system, community supervision services of delinquent youth, which are commonly referred to as probation services are operated exclusively by the state in 22 states. In other states, probation services are performed by both state and local agencies. The agencies entrusted with community supervision of the youth are required to maintain operations and manage administrative function such as human resources and activity financing. Where community supervision is exclusively by the state, the services are executed by state-level executives and judicial agencies. However, in the states, services are operated by independent local and district level governments and agencies.

4. What type of agency controls the operation of state commitment facilities? 

Most states have defined independent juvenile correctional agencies. They include the Department of Juvenile Justice, social or human services agency and the public welfare agency which administer federal-state commitment facilities. In 30 states and the district of Columbia agency controls include the independent juvenile correctional agency, family child welfare agency, broad human agency and adult corrections agencies. For example, in Florida, independent minor correction is operated as the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice and the Florida Department of Corrections. The social and human services agencies deal with family and child welfare, where independent children and youth-serving agencies manage both child protection and juvenile corrections. An example of this type of agency is the Connecticut Department of Children and Families. A different kind of control agency is one that deals with states general public welfare classified under broad human services. For example, the Colorado Department of Human Services engages in public welfare by offering assistance to families who need resources such as food or childcare. The department also seeks children at risk of abuse or neglect, youth who have violated the law, and residents who need mental health treatment.

5. Are adjudicated juvenile offenders ever committed to public detention centers? 

Every state has various juvenile facilities which are described as correctional facilities. They include detention centers, long term secure facilities and reception and diagnostic centers. In most states, public detention centers are established to hold delinquent youth awaiting court hearing or placement in other areas. Detention centers are also used in placement of adjudicated offenders. Thus, the purpose of juvenile detention is to confine serious youth offenders such as those who are violent or chronic. In most states, the adjudicated youth are placed in long term secure facilities. The reception and diagnostic facilities collaborate with long term facilities to identify youth handled over by the court and assign them to various correctional centers. Thus, detention centers, long term secure facilities and diagnostic centers act as transitional facilities when handling delinquent youth, supporting them to become successful adults. The long-term facilities are also considered as training schools which hold a large number of youths for a more extended time usually longer than ninety days.

6. What are the most commonly used residential placement options for committed youth? 

After the correction facilities, committed youths are confined in residential facilities. Residential facilities vary in various aspects and styles such as military-style boot camps or group homes. The youth in residential facilities are allowed to go to work or school and operate in locked facilities instead of staff secured facilities. The conditions of residential facilities differ and, in some state, have been reported as worse than prisons. In residential facilities, the committed youth also receive treatment facilities and live in group homes.

7 . Are parents or guardians required to financially support the institutionalization of their delinquent children? 

Different states have different laws on the consequences of parents and guardians of delinquent children. In 27 states, the courts have made it mandatory for the states to place requirements on parents and guardians to support the facilities by paying part of the costs required for the confinement of their children. In other states, decisions parent expectations and their contribution to the facilities is dependent on the judge. In states where payment is mandatory, the fee is dependent on the parent’s financial ability, which is done through the assessment of the family income.

8. How do states vary in the circumstances under which juvenile records can be unsealed? 

There is a significant difference in the conduct of states records of the juvenile justice system. The processes of unsealing juvenile court records vary from one state to another where other states offer sealing services and consider juvenile adjudication as different from conviction. The availability of juvenile records to the public in states depends on the type of record. Records of felonies are mainly open to the public, and those of misdemeanors are closed to the public. States, however, have procedures that provide for the unsealing of the juvenile court records after specified offences are committed. A court order can also unseal the records.

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StudyBounty. (2023, September 17). The Juvenile Justice System: How It Works.


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