Juvenile Court Adulthood

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The idea of adulthood represents an ambiguous threshold marking the end of childhood. In the context of ethnic and religious groups, the crossing of this threshold into adulthood occurs at widely varying ages and experiences that signify a coming of age in their respective communities. Given these cultural variances in the determination of “adulthood”, it is interesting that in the realm of the American legal system, the deciding factor between juvenile and adult rests on age limit set at eighteen years. It is this seemingly arbitrary bright-line of adulthood in the American legal system will be the focus of this essay. Specifically, this paper will examine how juveniles are treated in the U.S. criminal justice system compared to adults with…show more content…
For example, in juvenile court, attorneys are not required or appointed. Additionally juvenile court does not guarantee trial by jury, although many states do allow jury tries for juvenile cases. Critics of the juvenile court system, like Supreme Court Justice Douglas, who wrote the dissenting opinion for the landmark US Supreme Court case of McKeiver v. Pennsylvania, feel that denying juveniles these constitutional protections represent an “invidious discrimination… to be denied these same constitutional safeguards” as adults (McKeiver v. Pennsylvania). While juvenile courts do not guarantee the same legal rights as adult courts, the preclusion of these rights is actually to the benefit of the offender. While a jury may see certain mannerisms or behaviors of a juvenile offender on trial as signs of guilt, juvenile court judges are better able to understand the normal behavior of juvenile offenders on trial. Because juvenile court justices better understand the specific circumstances influencing juvenile crime, they are better able to formulate individualized sentences designed to maximize rehabilitation for each offender in sentencing whereas a jury of randomly selected community members does not have that vital experience…show more content…
United States Supreme Court. May 17, 2010. Print Guttman, Cathrine. “Listen to the Children: The Decision to Transfer Juveniles to Adult Court.” Harvard Civil Liberties Review 30 (1995) In Re Gault. United States Supreme Court. 15 May 1967. Print. In Re Winship. United States Supreme Court. 1970. Print “Maturation of the Prefrontal Cortex”. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Office of Population Affairs. Web. 23 Oct. 2012. <http://www.hhs.gov/opa/familylife/tech_assistance/etraining/adolescent_brain/Develop men/prefrontal_cortex/>. McKeiver v. Pennslyvania. United States Supreme Court. 21 June 1971. Print. Roper v Simmons. United States Supreme Court. 2005. Print Scott, Elizabeth. "Blaming Youth." Texas Law Review 81 (2003): 799-840. “Special Education in Correctional Facilities.” National Center on Education, Disability, and Juvenile Justice. 1999. http://www.edjj.org/Publications/pub05_01_00.html Travis, Jeremy. “From Prison to Home: The Dimensions and Consequences of Prisoner Reentry.” Urban Institute Justice Policy Center (June 2001). United States. U.S. Department of Justice. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. Children’s Exposure to Violence: A Comprehensive National Survey. Jeff Slowikowsk. Washington D.C , October 2009.

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