In America, there are two facets to the justice system, one for juvenile offenders and one that is primarily for adults. The adult justice system is known as the criminal justice system. This is the system by which criminals are apprehended, tried, sentenced, and jailed. The juvenile justice system is for children that are under the age of 18. The beginning of the juvenile system has roots as far back as 1925. For people in criminal justice careers and those who are studying for a criminal justice degree, it is important to understand the difference between the juvenile and criminal justice systems. Although laws pertaining to the juvenile system vary from one state to the next, there are common aspects that make them universally different from the criminal system.
How Offenses are Viewed
When studying for a criminal justice degree, a student will learn that one of the differences between the two systems is how the offending act is viewed. If an adult commits an offense, the act is seen as a crime in the eyes of the law and of the justice system. When that person goes to court, he or she is put on trial and prosecuted for committing the crime that he or she is accused of. When a juvenile commits an offense it is generally considered a delinquent act. A delinquent act is defined as an action that is a felony offense, misdemeanor or violation that is committed by a child or an adolescent. In some cases and states, certain actions may not be considered delinquent acts in the eyes of the law. Depending on the type of offense and its severity, it may be seen as a crime in which the child would then be tried as an adult according to the particular state’s laws.
How They Are Tried
In the criminal justice system, the accused has the right to a trial by a jury of his or her peers. Based on the evidence that is presented by the prosecution, the jury will decide whether the defendant is guilty or not guilty. For the adolescent offender there are several differences in how he or she will be tried. One difference is that unless the accused person is being charged for a crime as opposed to a delinquent act, there is most often no trial or jury in the juvenile justice system. Another difference is that the juvenile is not found guilty, but instead the judge may rule that he or she is delinquent. As opposed to a trial by jury, evidence and the juvenile’s offense history are presented to a judge in what is known as a hearing. Based on what is presented during the hearing, the judge will then either find the offender to be delinquent or otherwise.
Goal of the System
People who are involved in criminal justice careers should also be aware that the juvenile and criminal justice systems differ when it comes to goals. In the juvenile justice system it is believed that children or adolescents can be positively influenced. For this reason, rehabilitation is a primary goal for children who enter the juvenile system. This often takes place in the form of programs, activities and education. The criminal justice system does not generally see rehabilitation as a goal. Instead its purpose is to deter future crimes.
After finishing their time in either the criminal or adult justice system, both adults and children are paroled. For child offenders, the parole consists of monitoring the behavior and actions of the youthful offender. In addition, it also involves reintegrating the child back into his or her life, family and school. When an adult is paroled, he or she is monitored by the parole or probation officer for behavior that may lead back to re-incarceration.
When seeking a criminal justice degree it is important to learn and understand the difference between the justice systems. This is particularly true for people who are pursuing criminal justice careers that involve prosecuting adolescents. They are the same in that their goal is to reduce crime and delinquent acts for the safety of the public. Although laws that govern the juvenile system may vary depending on the state, there are many basic elements that are the same. Understanding these elements is the best way to compare the juvenile system against the criminal one