In the last two decades of the twentieth century, the American public tended to turn away from the concept of rehabilitation and embrace a get-tough attitude toward criminal justice in general. This attitude included the juvenile justice system, which many viewed as being soft on crime and somewhat dismissive of the criminal acts that juveniles had committed. Discuss these opposing viewpoints. Should the juvenile justice system continue a trend toward punitiveness as opposed to rehabilitation?
But, unfortunately this trend began to shift in the late 1980s, when the nation experienced a steady increase in juvenile crime, which was much more violent than earlier. Between years 1985 and 1995, the nation witnessed a nearly 80% rise in arrests of juveniles 17 years old or younger for violent crimes, including murder, forcible rape and aggravated assault. Contributing to public alarm was the idea advanced by the news media and a few academics that a new generation of young “super predators” had emerged, who were much more violent, cold-hearted, and less amenable to rehabilitation than their predecessors.
The most widespread policy response to such concerns is to enact new judicial transfer statutes which made a mandatory rule that all the cases of young offenders charged with felonies should be sent to adult criminal courts. Between years 1994 and 1998, juvenile arrests for Violent Crime Index fell by 19%, when compared to a 6% decline in adults arrested for similar felonies.Today, all the states of America have adopted mechanisms to handle juveniles in adult criminal court. This had a profound impact on the U.S. juvenile justice system.
Hence the original intent of establishing a separate juvenile court was to keep adolescents out of adult prisons, limit their exposure to adult criminal activity and poor role models, and provide interventions aimed at diverting them from further anti-social behavior and toward more positive outcomes. But with the increased violent crimes among the youth, juvenile justice system should continue the trend of punitiveness instead of rehabilitation.
Also, as research suggests, that risk taking and poorly regulated behavior tend to lessen with maturity, suggesting that as children age they are amenable to change. Research also shows that the antisocial behavior increases almost ten-fold during adolescence and then rapidly declines as they get older. Only a small group of adolescents who commit antisocial acts during their childhood continue to do so into adulthood. Hence, continuing with the with the present trend of punitiveness is a better option than the rehabilitation.