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Thursday, December 2, 2010

THE DEATH OF INNOCENCE

THE DEATH OF INNOCENCE*
Critics time after time protest that the juvenile waiver system is neither fair nor consistently administered. The vast majority of evidence on this topic supports the protests of these critics. To begin, there are two ways to decide whether or not a juvenile should be waived into adult court. In accordance with a criminal court point of view, punishment is the main concern, the seriousness of the offense and length of the offender's record then decides whether or not they are waived into adult court. When taking the view point of the juvenile court that rehabilitation is the main objective then the offender's amenability to treatment, dangerousness, and future welfare are taken into consideration as to waiving them into adult court. Those in favor of the juvenile court claim that the juvenile court is consistent with the sentencing philosophy of that particular court and that individualized treatments provide a suitable balance of flexibility and severity. For those who agree with the criminal court, the argument is that the juvenile court lacks valid and reliable clinical tools to assess amenability to treat or to predict potential danger. They also bring attention to the abuses that could arise when a judge uses discretion as to which youths will be waived and which shall not.

When deciding whether a juvenile should be waived a judge will usually look at the offender's age, amount of time left for treatment, clinical evaluations of treatment prognosis, probation officer statements, the need to protect the community, whether the offense was committed against a person or property, and threat to others reflected in the seriousness of the current offense and prior record before deciding whether or not to waive him or her through to the adult system (Podkopacz & Feld, 1996). Psychologists will evaluate offenders based on age of onset of serious violent offending and of delinquent behavior, truancy, experiences with physical or sexual abuse, exposure to domestic violence or violence in the community, network of social support, presence of non-violent role model, school performance, and willingness to rehabilitate; these findings are then sent to the court to assist the judge in deciding whether or not to waive a juvenile into adult court (Gelles, 1997). The main concern critics of the waiver system have is the problematic and controversial way in which judges will decide which juveniles should be waived and which should not. (NOTE) When The Prosecutor
has the ability to direct file, the juvenile judges do not hear or decide a juveniles fate in court. )
youths are cognitively and emotionally less mature than adults, they tend to live for the moment and are characterized by showing poor judgment, having the attitude of invincibility, having difficulty thinking of the long-term consequences of their actions, and being easily influenced by peers (American, 2000). This is the main reason why, in 1988 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Thomson v. Oklahoma that the 8th amendment prohibited the execution of persons under the age of 16 at the time the offense was committed. However, "the United States remains the only country in the world that has not yet ratified the UN Convention, Articl e 37a, which states that 'Neither capital punishment nor life imprisonment without possibility of release shall be imposed for offenses committed by persons below eighteen years of age'" (Juvenile, 2005). When a juvenile enters an adult hearing they are less able to exercise their rights and to understand the court proceedings. While in an adult correctional facility they are routinely denied educational opportunities and are subject to abuse. However, juveniles are kept in a different part of the correctional facility while they are still a minor. An adult sentence is viewed as disproportionately harsh destroying the adolescent years of a young person's life and in some cases their prospects of a life after prison.
*Youths who do emerge from an adult correctional facility at a reasonably young age have had the opportunity to not only be exposed to career criminals but to learn from them and better their own skills in order to become more successful career criminals themselves (Podkopacz & Feld, 1996)
*The option to waive juveniles into adult court should not be eliminated from the juvenile court system. However, it should be modified. Just like prison is the last resort to deal with crime, waiver should be the last resort to deal with juvenile delinquency and status offenders. Considering the wide range of placement options, including training schools, ranches and camps, halfway houses, and shelters, judges should only have to waive juveniles into adult court in the most serious of cases (Levit, 1998).
("blended sentencing" practice that was first attempted by Minnesota. With this system, the juvenile stays in the juvenile court system but along with his juvenile sentence he also receives a criminal court sentence. Upon failure to adhere to the rules of the juvenile sentence the criminal sentence is automatically instated (Podkopacz & Feld, 2001). This is the best alternative to the waiver system because in the end it achieves the same goal but in a much more focused fashion. With this method, juveniles who would have benefited by the ordinary juvenile sentence still do, when they complete the steps of their juvenile sentence after an evaluation the criminal sentence is dropped and they exit the juvenile system. For juveniles who need a longer or more severe sentence than the juvenile system can provide they either violate some aspect of their juvenile sentence and thus have to carry out their criminal sentence or after completion of the juvenile sentence are evaluated and then given their criminal sentence to complete after the evaluation shows that they are not yet rehabilitated. Juveniles, who may have defaulted on a juvenile sentence, if they had received it without the criminal sentence, may think twice before doing so, when they know that a tougher criminal sentence is waiting for them. This waiver alternative can be viewed as a middle step between the juvenile court and the adult court, having this middle step available to the judge will help more juveniles be properly placed in a treatment program that is going to actually help them. This system also gives the juvenile all the procedural rights guaranteed to adults and thus results in more juveniles being properly represented throughout their journey through the correctional system.

The waiver system is neither fair nor consistent and is applied on the discretion of the prosecutor and judge handling the case. Some judges view waiver as a last resort while other judges view waiver has the best possible way to deal with a trouble making juvenile. Personal bias also comes into play when a judge decides to waive a juvenile into the adult court. Since the main objective of the adult correctional system is incapacitation and the main objective of the juvenile correctional system is rehabilitation
This option should exist, but only should be used in the most extreme of circumstances. Such as when the juvenile's or public's safety is in immediate damage, or when the youth is so far from reach that a rehabilitation program would foster absolutely no results.

http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/2435470/the_death_of_innocence_juveniles_in_pg9.html?cat=9&post=comments#comments

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