Looking over a juvenile case study: Charlie

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.

Juvenile Delinquency

The reduction of juvenile delinquents and the extremities that follow are a major focus in criminal justice agencies today. (Cox, Allen, Hanser, & Conrad, 2014 pp. 3) With an ever changing society come new trending crimes. The question that presents itself is why are these children turning to criminal behavior? There are so many theories that can be used to identify and explain what causes our youth to walk down a cricked path. In this paper, we are going to focus on two case studies and pinpoint the causation theory that best explains the behavior.

In the case study involving thirteen year old Abby, we discover that her step father had been sexually abusing her. Abby displayed signs of withdrawal and she got involved with drugs and alcohol. Abby ran away several times to get away from the abuse. We can look toward the sociological theories for an explanation for Abby’s withdrawal and why she ran away from home. According to Agnew’s strain theory, criminal behavior is evident when things are taken away by a negative and unwanted stimuli. (University of Delaware online, 2014) The abuse that Abby is victim too is stripping away her innocence along with her self-respect. The strain theory suggests that the negative stimuli can cause inert anger and cause the victim to engage in criminal acts. Crime in children have been linked to child abuse and neglect, like Abby is experiencing. With the ongoing abuse, Abby withdraws and her grades drop below her normal standard. These results would suggest a problem or major stressful event in Abby’s life. According to Agnew’s strain theory the abusive adult is the blame for the unlawful acts Abby displays, such as running away and the use of illegal narcotics and underage drinking. Strain theory is most likely prevalent in teenagers that have a hard time coping with stressful or straining situation. Abby was irritable and needed refuge from her step father which caused her to run away. A key factor in strain theory is the desire to blame someone else for the delinquent behavior displayed. Abby told officers that she ran away because her stepfather sexually abused her. She neutralized her delinquent behavior by placing the blame on the step father, however this does not excuse her from her actions. The strain theory best describes Abby’s behavior. Due to the stressor of her step father sexually abusing her, she acts out trying to seek refuge by running away; and to hide the disgust she has for herself and her body she turns to drugs and alcohol. She does not want to hurt anyone, but in order to cope with the situation she makes poor choices. Her behavior meets the defined criteria of the Sociological strain theory. The best way to intervene and help Abby is to remove her from the stimulus causing her grief and provide her with counseling. Abby will also need to go through a rehabilitation program that will help her with the drug and alcohol problem she has developed.
In the case study involving Ryan, a teenage Hispanic boy that has been subjected to domestic violence we can turn to several theories that suggest a reason for the violent behavior that has recently developed with Ryan at school. First looking at the psychopathology theory that suggest the behavior Ryan is displaying has been molded by the interactions he has witnessed at home, between mother and father. (Wolfe, 1999) This theory suggests that Ryan lacks the knowledge of how to handle his aggression and is unable to build a healthy relationship with individuals around him. However, the theory that works best to explain the process of learning this behavior is the Social Learning theory. This theory suggests the behavior is learned by watching and hearing the behavior displayed in the home by both parents. The children are learning that it is ok to display aggression and violence to solve any disagreements or conflicts that may arise. Ryan and his brothers have learned that there are no consequences to hurting someone because it has always been kept a secret family matter in their home. We learn from our environment and the individuals we trust the most. These children have a bond with the father. Dad is the leader and if the behavior works for him and he is able to accomplish the desired outcome by beating mom, then this must work in every volatile situation. These children will need to go through counseling and undergo an anger management program. Ryan and his brothers will need to learn that the behavior is unlawful and not the best way to handle conflict. Due to the lack of remorse the father displayed after becoming violent with the mother, one can only assume that the boys will also lack the ability to feel remorse for the repeated actions. These children will need to follow through with counseling. The parents will also need to undergo counseling, anger management, and parenting courses. In order for the children to understand there is consequences for the violent and abusive behavior their dad will need to be incarcerated. Ryan will need to receive punishment for his behavior in school in order to recondition him. With every bad choice and unlawful behavior there is a consequence that needs to be placed in order to unlearn the behavior.

By studying these two case studies we learn that there are several theories that will suggest the reasoning behind the delinquent behavior. The theory that works best to explain delinquency in juveniles is the social learning theory. Children see a behavior and they will repeat the behavior. We learn through our experiences and our environment around us. It is proven even in small children that what is seen will be repeated unless we have developed the ability to control the id. Freud’s theory tells us that when developed our superego will control the id and provide a balance. Without this control, the environment and those that influence us will shape our behavior, much like it did for Abby and Ryan.


Kam, J., Cleveland, M., & Hecht, M. (6, May 31). Abstract. Retrieved November 3, 2014, from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3881184/

Wolfe, D., & Jaffe, P. (1999). Emerging Strategies in the Prevention of Domestic Violence. Domestic Violence and Children, 9(3). Retrieved November 2, 2014, from http://www.princeton.edu/futureofchildren/publications/journals/article/index.xml?journalid=47&articleid=228§ionid=1497

Socioloical Theories of Drug Abuse. (n.d.). Retrieved November 2, 2014, from http://www.udel.edu/soc/tammya/pdf/crju369_theory.pdf