Juvenile Justice System vs. Adult Justice System

Published 22 Dec 2016

Juvenile delinquency has been a growing complicated issue around the world. Thus, a clearer view and understanding of juvenile delinquency is necessary to put an end to this problem among youth. Today, many developing countries take time to develop solutions and programs to resolve it. Well-developed countries also engage themselves in programs the aim of which is to prevent juvenile crimes.

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Definition and Causes of Juvenile Delinquency

Juvenile delinquency is a legal term for behavior of children and adolescents that adults would be judged criminal under law. It varies between the age of 14 to 21 (Juvenile, 2007). Juvenile delinquency is often committed by an inpidual between the age of 12 and 20. This covers various violations against legal and social norms. Most common cases of juvenile delinquency involve rape, robbery, and theft, most of which are group crimes. This is because adolescence is the period when a person starts to have his own circle of friends and be involved in group activities to feel a sense of belongingness.

The United Nations Guidelines for the Prevention of Juvenile Delinquency asserts that:

youthful behavior or conduct that does not conform to overall social norms and values is often part of the maturation and growth process and tends to disappear spontaneously in most inpiduals with the transition to adulthood; a great majority of young people commit some kind of petty offense at some point during their adolescence without this turning into a criminal career in the long term (“The Riyadh Guide,” 1990).

The transition from childhood to adolescence is determined by certain factors when it comes to relationship. The youth of today tend to become too aggressive towards the environment and the people they interact with. All are subject to risks regardless of gender, age, or social origin. However, during this stage of development, the criminal personality may start to develop, which can lead to delinquent behavior and commitment of crimes.

Creation of the Juvenile Justice System

In the United States, the first juvenile justice system was drafted during the Age of Enlightenment, sometime during the late 1800s. It was created in response to the growing problem regarding the youth offenders (Age of Enlightenment, 2006). After the idea was introduced, the juvenile justice system underwent many reforms. It was established as a separate system from the adult justice system. They have similarities and differences that made controversies in treating juvenile and adult offenders.

Current Trend of Juvenile Justice System

A series of juvenile justice systems have been implemented in countries worldwide in order to discipline the youth the way adult criminals are given punishment according to the governing laws of the country. The juvenile justice system is different from the adult criminal justice system in many ways. There are lighter provisions and penalties for a youth offender. There are certain constitutional rights for a criminal defendant available to an adult offender that may not be available for a juvenile offender. There are also different procedures for a juvenile trial based on court procedures. Juvenile probation officers are vital in every case of juvenile delinquency activities. In most systems, once a juvenile offender is found guilty of a certain act, there is a rehabilitation process and disciplinary measures provided.

Difference of Juvenile and Adult Justice System

One the main differences of the juvenile justice system and adult justice system is that the juvenile offender is branded as a status offender. Calderon (2006) defines a status offender as “someone charged with an offense that would not be a crime if committed by an adult” (Calderon, 2006). For instance, drinking alcoholic beverages while under the legal drinking age is a violation that covers only the underage. Thus, this status offense is included in the juvenile justice system. These laws that are “aimed at preventing status offenses are a conscientious of society in preventing future harm to children and the community[;] [they are] not just for disciplinary actions” (Calderon, 2006).

As a status offender, the laws of the juvenile justice system have the authority to issue warning, citations, and referrals to the offender. These status offenses are considered as driving factors for them to grow as adult criminals. In order to discipline the juvenile offender, “community-based treatment programs and prohibiting incarceration [have] been the known practice. Arrests can occur but long-term incarceration is not practiced. In certain cases, detention is needed for further processing” (Calderon, 2006).

Another difference of the juvenile justice system and the adult criminal justice system lies on the role of the law enforcement officials. For the adult justice system, the arrest and investigation process are prioritized. However, for the juvenile justice process, the law enforcers are the ones who govern the youth offenders as they perform social service duties. This paves the way for the great change in the lives of the young criminals. There is also a difference in the arrest process. Compared to the juvenile justice system, the adult criminal justice system is more serious and aggressive (Juszkiewicz, 2006).

Constitutional Rights of Adult Offenders

After the arrest process, the hearing process takes place. There is no bail system for juvenile criminals unlike the adult criminals. The juvenile court will decide if the child will remain under his or her parents’ custody or he or she will be detained in a certain custody agreed upon by the court. Siegal (2002) reports that “most [of the] States… refuse juveniles the right to bail. Non-participating States argue that juvenile proceedings are civil, not criminal, and that detention is rehabilitative, not punitive” (p. 320). Moreover, they argue that “juveniles do not need a constitutional right to bail because statutory provisions allow children to be released into parental custody” (Siegal, 2002, p. 320). In adult cases, the bailing process is applicable.

Juvenile Court Procedure

During the indictment process, there is a similarity to both juvenile and adult justice system. The jurisdictional hearing for juveniles and adult criminals are held within 15 days. For juvenile offenders, hearing days are extended up to 30 days if they are not in custody. However, “despite the speedy right to trial, adult criminal proceedings can take up much longer time due to many factors: change of venue, new motion for new evidence as well as many other factors” (Calderon, 2006).

The juvenile court hearing is more private than the adult hearing, so as not to make it traumatizing for the young offender. After all, the main goal of juvenile justice system is not to condemn the youth but to discipline and rehabilitate them.

Social workers or juvenile justice officers are responsible in giving detention to the offenders and put them in certain institutions and rehabilitations that will help them enhance their way of livings. They are also encouraged to continue their studies and are educated about the moral behavior to be observed.

Separating the Juvenile Justice System

Personally, I believe that there should be a separate system between the juvenile and adult justice system. One great problem in other countries is that youth offenders are mixed with adult criminals in jails. This is because their government lacks the necessary fund to provide a separate cell for detained juveniles. “Almost all experts agree that placing children under the age of 18 in any type of jail facility should be prohibited because youngsters can easily be victimized by other inmates and staff, be forced to live in squalid conditions, and be subject to physical and sexual abuse” (Siegal, 2002, p. 320). There is a high risk of juvenile to be victimized by adult criminals either physically or sexually abused.>


  • Age of Enlightenment. (2006). WNEC Faculty Homepages. Retrieved February 11, 2008
  • Calderon, M. (2006). A reflective comparison of the juvenile criminal justice system v. the adult criminal justice system. Retrieved February 11, 2008 from: http://www.anairhoads.org/calderon/juvadult.shtml
  • Juszkiewicz, J. (2006). Youth crime/adult time: is justice served? Building Blocks of Youth. Retrieved February 11, 2008 from: http://www.buildingblocksforyouth.org/ycat/ycat.html
  • Juvenile delinquency (2007). The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. Retrieved February 11, 2008 from: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1E1-juvenil-d.html
  • Siegal, L. (2002). Juvenile Delinquency: The Core, 318-325.
  • United Nations Guidelines for the Prevention of Juvenile Delinquency (1990). The Riyadh Guidelines. Retrieved February 11, 2008 from: http://www.unhchr.ch/html/menu3/b/h_comp47.htm.
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