The juvenile justice system in the U.S has existed for two centuries since it was founded, with its initial appearance in1899 in Illinois. Before then, the juveniles were legally treated equally and their punishments were similar to adults. From 1880 to 1920, or the progressive era, social aspects were marked by an influx of immigrants as well as urban development. Consequently, several juveniles were neglected and even engaged in delinquencies. The children convicts as a result of such delinquencies were imprisoned together with mature offenders. Juvenile delinquency is a criminal activity done by a person who has not reached the legal age and their acts have been termed as illegal by law. Through the help of social activists, however, the legal system saw a need to separate juveniles and adults since they were learning antisocial behaviors while in prison. The negative influence from adults resulted in segregation of juveniles with the help of juvenile court systems as well as rehabilitation centers. These centers concentrated on trade skills since they maintained that delinquency was due to of pursuit for survival means as well as the social surroundings. Thus, teaching trade skills to the offenders could positively contribute to society when they are out of prison. This form of the juvenile system was grounded on English Bridewell institution but was soon replaced in progressive period with institutions like a house of refuge, which taught diverse social coping and religious skills (Dammer & Albanese 83).
However, due to overcrowding, others came up during the 1800s, which involved cottages as well as foster homes and emphasized familial setup although laboring in the farms was paramount. These new reformatories also were so overcrowded but were replaced by juvenile institutions for female juveniles in 1880, critical on training domestic as well as baby nursing skills. The initial juvenile court system was based on the concept of parens patriae, which maintained that the court had a responsibility of taking up parental roles. This empowered juvenile courts to rescue a child from neglect, mistreatment, and delinquency among others (Dammer & Albanese 263). Parens patriae meant to serve youths in delinquency but it was subject to criticism. These are among other aspects that saw to the evolution of the juvenile court systems in the US.
The federal government passed the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Act of 1975 to deal with juvenile delinquencies, which saw to the creation of Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) in the justice Department. This was aimed to award grants for programs meant to combat juvenile offenders, those responsible for statistical analysis of such offenders as well as funding the research related to juvenile crime and correction centers. Juvenile offenders should not be treated similar to adult offenders. For this reason, the juvenile criminals are dealt with differently according to the state. Juvenile courts are geared at rehabilitation as well as deterring young people from committing crime through regulations, programs as well as punishments. This has led the overall juvenile offenders to dropping from 21% to 15 % in 1980 and 2008 respectively (Dammer & Albanese 262). Although there is a high incidence rate to indicate majority of juvenile offenders are males, from poor socio-economic backgrounds and ethnic minorities. Offenders below 14 years are not convicted for an offense until prosecutor’s approval of ‘guilty mind’ in the juvenile. Juvenile suspects undergo same procedures after their presentation to juvenile system irrespective of their jurisdiction where the prosecutor chooses whether to ignore the charges, informally take the case or whether to file the charges formally. When filed, the case is kept for later hearing where the judge has the jurisdiction. All the same, community as well as guidance and outreach programs are applied to reform the delinquent as the judge holds back the case. Additionally, the juvenile offender may pay for compensation, attend school or obtain psychiatric aid as demanded by the judge (Dammer & Albanese 258).
The Chinese juvenile court system is structured similar to that of the United States although it involves distinction founded on local customs. The history of juvenile protection dates back as reflected by stipulations in ancient Chinese legal system. For instance, in the era of Zhou dynasty, offenders below seven or exceeding eighty years could be let off from facing legal repercussions. The National People’s Congress stipulated two hundred and fifty three laws as well as a hundred and six legal resolutions since 1979 to 1999 mostly related to juvenile legal rights. The most significant laws in safeguarding the welfare of juveniles include the Law of the People’s Republic of China on the Protection of Minors, which was the initial comprehensive law in the country to offer organized as well as general safeguard of juvenile’s rights and their interests as well as law of the People’s Republic of China on the Prevention of Juvenile Delinquency (Messner 179).
The Chinese government also asserts their approval in accordance to the International Convention on Children’s Rights. The Chinese system portrays aspects of communism in their customary, collective as well as familial values. Initially, the Chinese juvenile system was informal and was dependent upon remedial dealings from learning institutions and parents. However, its population increases during the twenty first century called for well structured and purposeful system to deal with juvenile criminals. China has many juveniles and being a developing nation, the juvenile justice system has continuously undergone various changes as the juvenile delinquency cases are increasing due to economic growth. There has been creation of 3,300 juvenile courts as a result, referring to individuals aged 14-18 years without any procedures for transfer to adult courts. The courts development may be categorized into preliminary formation and test since 1984 to 1988 , national-wide extension from 1988 to 1990, and evaluation and development stage ranging from 1990 (Messner 184). Double protection formed the basis and reflects equitability in the safeguarding of minors and of the community. The juvenile offenders should be punished for the welfare of the community but should be well balanced to achieve the aim. Additionally, it has to be legal and educative for the offender. Moreover, like that of the U.S the Chinese court procedures for juveniles vary from ones of adults since they are a bit informal and educational, as the court applies parens patriae principles. The juveniles have to be educated through lenient punishments while safeguarding their rights, which exclude capital punishment (Messner 184).
Currently, juvenile offenders have been awarded increased legal rights similar to those of adults. For instance, the Chinese and American juvenile offenders cannot be detained without proper grounds but a probation officer, legal guardian or a parent could. They also cannot be bailed out and are freed under parental attention or for pre-adjudication custody. Juveniles have rights to the Counsel and incase they are not able to obtain; they are awarded with legal representation through parents or a public defender. The juvenile is given counsel through the court. They are also safeguarded against self-incrimination thorough the Fifth Amendment. They have rights to face up to and evaluate their witnesses, be aware of their charges and in particular states, trial by jury is allowed. They can however at times be convicted as adults if the judge maintains that the offender cannot gain from juvenile reform programs. Besides, they could be over thirteen or sixteen years or the offense is too serious to be handled by juvenile court system. Similar to China, the US Juveniles are sentenced leniently ranging from verbal warming to restitution payment, compulsory counseling, electronic follow-up, or punished through community service. However, the judge could demand their confinement depending on the seriousness of the offense, which range from house arrest, juvenile detention facilities, shock probation, placement in minimum or maximum security facility and adult jails. Juvenile criminal record could be sealed when one is mature enough through appeal to the juvenile court clerk (Dammer & Albanese 264).
Dammer, Harry and Albanese, Jay. Comparative Criminal Justice Systems. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Thomson Learning. 2011. Print.
Messner, Steven. Crime and Social Control in A Changing China. Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group. 2001. Print.