Juvenile delinquency in the United States

Juvenile delinquency in the United States

In the United States, a juvenile delinquent is a person who has not yet reached the age of majority, and whose behavior has been labeled as a Juvenile delinquent by a court. The specific requirements vary from state to state. In the United States, the federal government enacted legislation to unify the handling of juvenile delinquents, the "Juvenile Justice and Delinquency" Act of 1975

The act created the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) within the Justice Department to administer grants for juvenile crime-combating programs (currently only about 900,000 dollars a year), gather national statistics on juvenile crime, fund research on youth crime and administer four anticonfinement mandates regarding juvenile custody. Specifically, the act orders:

*Deinstitutionalization: Youths charged with "status" offenses that would not be crimes if committed by adults, such as truancy, running away and being caught with alcohol or tobacco, must be "deinstitutionalized," which in this case really means that, with certain exceptions (e.g., minor in possession of a handgun), status offenders may not be detained by police or confined. Alleged problems with this mandate are that it overrides state and local law, limits the discretion of law enforcement officers and prevents the authorities' ability to reunify an offender with his family.cite web|url=http://www.ncpa.org/ba/ba235.html|title=The Long Arm of Federal Juvenile Crime Law Shortened|accessdate=2006-12-12]
*Segregation: Arrested youths must be strictly segregated from adults in custody. Under this "out of sight and sound" mandate, juveniles cannot be served food by anyone who serves jailed adults nor can a juvenile walk down a corridor past a room where an adult is being interrogated. This requirement forces local authorities to either free juveniles or maintain expensive duplicate facilities and personnel. Small cities, towns and rural areas are especially hard hit, drastically raising those taxpayers' criminal justice costs. Supporters of the system point to lower sexual assault rates when adults and children are separated.
*Jail and Lockup Removal: As a general rule, youths subject to the original jurisdiction of juvenile courts cannot be held in jails and lockups in which adults may be detained. The act provides for a six-hour exception for identification, processing, interrogation and transfer to juvenile facilities, court or detention pending release to parents. The act also provides an exception of 24 hours for rural areas only.
*Over representation of minority youths: States must systematically try to reduce confinement of minority youths to the proportion of those groups in the population.

One of the most notable causes of juvenile delinquency is fiat, i.e. the declaration that a juvenile is delinquent by the juvenile court system without any trial, and upon finding only probable cause. Many states have laws that presuppose the less harsh treatment of juvenile delinquents than adult counterparts’ treatment. In return, the juvenile surrenders certain constitutional rights, such as a right to trial by jury, the right to cross-examine, and even the right to a speedy trial. Notable writings by reformers such as Jerome G. Millercite book|title="Last One Over the Wall"|first=Jerome G.|last=Miller|id=ISBN 0-8142-0758-8|date=1991|publisher=Ohio State University Press] show that very few juvenile delinquents actually broke any law. Most were simply rounded up by the police after some event that possibly involved criminal action. They were brought before juvenile court judges who made findings of delinquency, simply because the police action established probable cause.

In 1967, the United States Supreme Court decided the case "In re Gault", that established the protection of many, but not all, procedural rights of juveniles in court proceedings, such as the right to counsel and right to refuse self-incrimination.


External links

* [http://ojjdp.ncjrs.org/ Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention]
* [http://www.cjcj.org CJCJ.org] The Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice
* [http://www.criminology.fsu.edu/jjclearinghouse/about.html The Juvenile Justice Role Model Development Program - Florida State University]

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