Over the years, the issue of adolescents in juvenile criminal justice systems has become a major concern. There has been a dramatic increased in the number of adolescents who are incarcerated in juvenile system in the United States compared to other countries. This has begged the question whether adolescents in the United States are more criminal than other adolescents in the world or if there is a problem within the juvenile criminal justice system that has led to increased incarceration in the United States. Research shows that adolescents in juvenile criminal justice system face many health problems. In addition, high rate of recidivism by juvenile offenders cast doubts over the effectiveness of juvenile criminal justice system. In light of all these issues, the issue of adolescents in juvenile justice system is therefore an issue of interest in criminology and it will form the focus of this study.
Why study the issue?
As we stand today, United States has decided to break international records on incarceration and it has surpassed other countries. The number of adolescents incarcerated in United States juvenile system is more than the average in other countries by far. The main reason why this study is interested in looking at the issue of adolescent in juvenile prison is to understand the reason behind increased incarceration of American adolescents compared to the rest of the world. The main question that the study will seek to answer is why there are a large number of adolescents incarcerated in the juvenile criminal justice system? Does it imply that adolescents in United States are more criminal compared to the rest of the world? Or is there a fault in our criminal juvenile criminal justice system leading to incarceration of large number of adolescents compared to the rest of the world?
Adolescents in Juvenile criminal justice system
Over the last century, the issue of adolescents in juvenile criminal justice system has become a central issue of research. During the 18th century, there was little evidence that showed the difference in criminal culpability between children and adults (Taylor, Fritsch & Caeti, 2001). Therefore juveniles, as young as fourteen years, were tried as adults and faced full sentence that were given to adult offenders. However, there was a great shift in this approach when psychologists and sociologists started to recognize the emerging notion that the period of adolescence was developmentally distinct from other periods of life. With this knowledge, there started a reform movement that called for separation of juveniles from adult prisons. This was followed by different studies that in deed confirmed that trying and incarcerating juveniles in adult criminal justice system was counter productive in the fight against escalating crimes. Starting with the time statistics revealed high rate of recidivism among adolescents who were incarcerated in adult prison, most states started enacting legislations aimed at separating juvenile offenders from adult offenders. Trying and incarcerating juvenile as adult offenders was faulted in may way and apart from criminalizing the juveniles more, it was found to be disruptive to normal cycle of development because it separated adolescents from their normal growth environment, disrupted their education, and took them away from parental care. This led to disfranchised group of adolescents that did not integrate with the society immediately after they were released.