Crisis in American Juvenile Justice System

The American juvenile justice system is considered a system in crisis. It is not only overloaded by increased delinquency, but it is also a system seen as ineffective at the best of times. There has long been a tension in the system between the twin missions of punishment and rehabilitation, just as there is in the adult criminal justice system. With juveniles, however, there is the added belief that the offenders are less responsible for their actions than are adults, that the system has a role as substitute parent, and that alternatives to incarceration are particularly valuable to meld these missions. However, as juvenile crime has increased in incidence and severity, the public has become less patient and has demanded punishment over rehabilitation, seeing this as a way to protect itself against the depredations of young offenders. Community based corrections programs are seen as a viable alternative to "detention centers" in the eyes of the justice system and other professionals who work with young offenders, but the creation of such programs must also protect the public from juvenile crime and will certainly come under increased criticism for any failure to do so. Supervision is promoted as a viable alternative to detention, but the issue is raised whether supervision is effective or whether lack of supervision produces less desirable results.

Analysts note that there have been significant changes in the juvenile justice system in the last several decades, with a



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