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Punishment and Sentencing, Essay Example

Pages: 4

Words: 1170

Essay

In modern society, the justice system has developed to serve the interests of society as a whole. The purpose is to maintain good order in society and deal with offenders who violate laws. The prosecution and punishments prescribed fulfill a number of purposes. The main purpose of all punishment is to safeguard society, and this is accomplished by either punishing offenders, detaining offenders in order to prevent them from reoffending, and reforming criminals in order to change their future behavior. These are known as the principles of retribution, deterrence, and rehabilitation. These principles are applied differently to adult offenders and juvenile offenders based upon the different goals of the two court systems.

The main differences between the juvenile justice system and the adult justice system lie in the treatment of the offenders. It is clear that juveniles are treated as less responsible for their own crimes, and more likely to be rehabilitated. This is evident because of the greater emphasis placed on rehabilitation in the juvenile system, as well as the treatment of juvenile records (Levinson 2002).

Juvenile offenders are treated differently under the law during trial. They are tried in juvenile courts that find guilt and sentence differently from an adult court of law. The most significant difference in this trial process is that juvenile offenders do not have a Constitutional right to a jury trial. Guilt is determined by the court and sentencing is handled differently (Levinson 2002).

The appeals process for juveniles works much the same way that it does for adult offenders. Appeals sent up by the offender’s counsel are considered and the issue of guilt is examined. If it is determined that the offender is not guilty, he or she is released, much like in the adult justice system. The main difference, however, is that juvenile offenders do not have the right to attend their appeals process (Levinson 2002).

After guilt is determined, juvenile offenders are punished in many of the same ways as adult offenders. Under the principles of retribution, juvenile offenders are subjected to incarceration for a period of time. Juvenile offenders are not coddled or treated well due to their status as juveniles. Instead, they are treated as criminals who live in cells and face the punishment of being taken off the street. In addition, juvenile offenders are often given community service, probation, and other duties and obligations that are meant to inconvenience and punish (Hess 2009).

However, the retribution principles are not the main focus of the juvenile justice system. Life sentences are typically not possible in juvenile cases not involving homicide. In addition, the 2005 Supreme Court Ruling in Roper v. Simmons ruled that it is unconstitutional to sentence juvenile offenders to the ultimate penalty of retribution: the death penalty. These two facts show that the retribution portion of punishment philosophy typically takes a backseat to deterrence and rehabilitation (Carmen 2005).

One of the main differences between the adult and juvenile justice system lies in the keeping of records. When juveniles are arrested and prosecuted, most often, the records of their crimes are not made readily available to employers. Instead, records are sealed and juvenile offenders are given a clean slate upon turning 18. This is in stark contrast to the procedure for adult offenders, who find themselves saddled with criminal records for life.

The philosophy behind this difference lies in the view of juvenile offenders. They are both granted greater reprieve from the lifelong punishment of a record and given the benefit of a second chance. The juvenile is considered to be, in a sense, not fully in control of his or her own actions due to the lower level of maturity that is possessed by children.

From this view of juvenile offenders, the justice system gathers its philosophy of disposition and sentencing as well. In sentencing, the juvenile system strives to impose the least detrimental punishment, meaning that the punishment must be rehabilitative in nature and avoid imposing overly harsh measures against the juvenile offenders. This is further evidence that the philosophy of retribution is secondary to the goals of the juvenile justice system. The principles of least detrimental punishment prevent sentencing based upon severity of crime, and prevent any sort of punishment that is not designed to rehabilitate and reform the juvenile offender.

For release, a juvenile offender must typically attend a hearing to be released. There are no dates, and a judge decides whether or not an offender has been rehabilitated enough to warrant release. This is an example of the increased emphasis on rehabilitation in the juvenile system. Juveniles are held until they are fully rehabilitated, and not released to parents until the court system is convinced that the child’s behavioral pattern has been corrected. This process can take years, and is completely up to the court (Scott 2010).

In a sense, this process implements retribution and deterrence philosophies to attain the higher, ultimate goal of rehabilitation for the juvenile offender. By keeping juvenile offenders confined, the court is administering punishment and protecting the community. Deterrence is among the main goals as well because release is based on the likelihood that the child will reoffend. When the court determines that the child will is rehabilitated to the point that he or she will not offend again. Release based on these conditions show that, despite the amount of punishment that has been administered, deterrence and rehabilitation are foremost in the consideration of the court when deciding whether or not to release the juvenile offender.

Juvenile courts have an obligation to protect the underage offender and the public. They operate on principles that are different from those of adult courts, whose primary purpose is to seek justice, first through jury trials to determine guild, then through the application of the principles of retribution to the offender. Juvenile offenders are protected in many ways, from open records of their crimes, and from certain applications of punishment designed to seek retribution. However, a greater emphasis is placed on the rehabilitation of the children and, therefore, juvenile offenders must meet a court’s requirement for release, rather than simply waiting out an end of sentence (Levinson 2002).

In the juvenile court system, it is necessary to apply principles of retribution to juvenile offenders, though this is not the main purpose of the juvenile corrections system. The twin purposes of deterrence and rehabilitation take precedence in the system, outweighing any inclination of the court to apply punishment. Society has judged that juvenile offenders should be rehabilitated and given a second chance. Therefore, these differences in practices and sentences are necessary in order to serve the goals of the juvenile justice system, which differ from the goals of the adult justice system.

References

Carmen, Rolondo V. Del, and Trulson, Chad R. (2005). Juvenile Justice: The System, Process, and Law. New York, New York: Wadsworth Publishing.

Hess, Kren M. (2009). Juvenile Justice: 5th Edition. New York, New York: Wadsworth Publishing.

Levinson, David ed. (2002). Encyclopedia of Crime and Punishment. Thousand Oaks, California, Berkshire Publishing Group LLC.

Scott, Elizabeth M, and Steinberg, Laurence. (2010). Rethinking Juvenile Justice. Boston, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.

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