The juvenile justice system was established over a century ago and focuses on correcting delinquent behavior in adolescence as a means to avoid criminal behavior as an adult. There are many criminal justice professionals that work together in order to see that the juvenile receives the proper punishment and is rehabilitated so that they can live peacefully as law-abiding citizens within society. This paper is going to review details of a case study that involves a 10-year-old delinquent and the key players within the juvenile justice system that work hard to redirect, correct, and rehabilitate the child.
The three main roles that directly work with the juvenile include; the Juvenile Police Officer, the Judge, and the Probation Officer. It is important to understand the function of each position in the juvenile system. For juveniles, the police officer is a very important role. The police officer generally acts as a window into the criminal justice system. They are the first key player that the delinquent interacts with. Police officers bring in the delinquent to the police station or headquarters to be questioned, finger printed, booked, and detained. The role of the police officer is vital to the young person, as they make the decision to refer the delinquent to juvenile court. The roles of this key player are broad as they deal with status offenses like curfew violations, truancy, skipping school, and runaways. They also deal with cases that involve abuse and neglect of a minor. The officer will intervene and remove the victim from the home and conduct interviews with school officials, parents, and other witnesses to ensure the safety of everyone involved. (Myers, 2012 p.2) Police officers are also involved with the community and provide education services to young people. Programs like D.A.R.E and G.R.E.A.T are two great programs that are offered to children in schools to help deter teens from drugs and gang related crime. School resource officers are also placed in inner city schools in urban areas where crime rates are high in order to provide safety and counsel to the students. School resource officer have the ability to investigate and report incidents that may occur on the school premises. (Myers, 2012 p. 10) When a juvenile is brought in for questioning they are not always arrested and detained. The officer must decide if a warning is feasible and if the young person can be released to their parents or guardian, if further police supervision is needed, or if they are to move forward into the juvenile court system where they will be seen before a judge. When an officer refers a juvenile delinquent to court the case is handed over to a probation officer to handle.
The probation officer views every case. Prior to the case going to court the probation officer must screen the case and determine if it should be processed formally. They also decide if the juvenile should be detained. The probation officer will also prepare investigative reports that the judge can use in dispositions. After court the probation officer takes a more hand on role in which they provide supervision and monitoring of the juvenile. The officer will file reports on the behavior and progress of the delinquent and administer drug tests as required. The probation officer works closely with the judge.
The judge is considered to be the most important role of the juvenile court process. The judge’s function is to determine the wellbeing and fate of the juvenile. He is to take into consideration the facts of the case and decide whether or not the child is in need of rehabilitation or if he can return home with the family and caretakers. The judge is also responsible for making sure that the juvenile receive the same constitutional fairness as an adult and that the rights of the young person are not violated. The judge must also ensure due process and make sure that all parties of the court are working effectively. (Edwards, 1992 p. 1-3) Once the case has been heard it is up to the sole discretion of the judge to determine the fate of the juvenile and what restorative justice program and rehabilitation program will be considered to correct and deter the juvenile from committing crimes.
These three parties are co-dependent. They create a balance and when one key player fails they all fail. Each role played display discretionary power and determine if the juvenile delinquent must move on to the next step or be dismissed. They share a common goal to uphold the law and to help the young person make changes in his life in order to be a successful law-abiding citizen and to refrain from criminal acts later on in life. The police officer, probation officer, and judge are all driven with the desire to identify law violators, the intent of the law violator, and to punish the law violator. (Jones & Kerbs, 2006) Although these three parties share commonalities, they are also different in many ways. The police officer and the probation officer work directly with the juvenile, but they do not report or work under the same directives. The police officer is the first encounter of the juvenile system and they determine the crime displayed and provide the initial report by questioning the offender and witnesses. The probation officer acts as a monitor and supervises. The judge does not directly work with the delinquent, but reviews the facts of the case and determines the fate. The judge has limited amount of time with the delinquent and does not directly influence the young person. The individual that will provide the most influence and spend the most time with the delinquent is the probation officer.
In the case of ten-year old Charlie we are aware that this is not the first time he has gotten into trouble with the law. Charlie was caught by a police officer and was in possession of $100 in stolen items. The officer has to take into account that this young boy has several counts of shoplifting on his rap sheet and it is apparent a warning is not going to deter him from the crime. The officer makes the decision to refer the juvenile to court where he will go before a judge. The probation officer handles Charlie’s case and prepares it for court. The probation officer must decide if Charlie’s case needs to be processed in a formal manner or informal procedure. Based on the facts of the case, Charlie may benefit from an informal processing in which the punishment will be best suited for Charlie based on his personal needs. The case is presented to the judge in court. The judge does not take lightly the fact that Charlie has no respect for the law and he has been caught shoplifting several times before. Charlie is not a bad kid, but he is in need of direction and proper discipline. This young boy catches a break and is offered probation in which he will follow strict rules and a curfew. Charlie has also been ordered to apologize to the store owner and to provide his services in the store in order to work off the amount of the stolen debt. Charlie is court ordered to attend school every day and to keep his grades up. The probation officer visits with Charlie once a week to make sure the court order is being followed and he also makes unscheduled visits to the store to ensure Charlie is working off his debt. Charlie’s progress is reported back to the judge by the probation officer.
Like so many other juveniles, Charlie was in need of guidance in order to have a real chance in the world. By working together and remaining focused on the shared goal to punish and rehabilitate the delinquent’s behavior the three key players in the juvenile justice system have the ability to make a positive change in this young person’s life.
Myers, J. (2012). Police and Juveniles. In Juvenile Justice (pp. 1-3 & 10). Sage Publications.
Edwards, L. (1992). The Juvenile Court and the Role of the Juvenile Court Judge. Juvenile and Family Court Journal, 1-3.