Every year, many children and adolescents are involved in the juvenile court systems in various ways. While punishment is fair in the case that there is crime committed, there are many cases in which children and adolescents still may become involved in the juvenile court system regardless. This is very unfortunate but also true, therefore, a proposal that addresses this kind of situation is important to create a better future for the juvenile court system. In addition to using the community as a resource, instead of the juvenile court, when dealing with children and adolescents who haven’t committed a crime, providing families with alternative ways of resolving problems can give the families a less formal way of dealing with disputes. Lastly, through unification of the family court, all cases families had to deal with would be taken care of by only 1 judge. In this way, there would be a great reduction in the amount of conflicts families usually have when they are sent to different judges for different problems all in the same family. I propose that by following through on the proposals denoted above, every case in the juvenile court system would be handled in a “comphrensive [and] attentive” way to “maximize accountability and enhance prevention of future problems” which is what the juvenile court system was created to do (Edwards, 1996).
Proposal 1: The Unified Family Court
According to Edward’s “The Future of the Juvenile Court: Promising New Directions,” the juvenile court system is necessary to help children and adolescents grow into responsible adults but it’s equally important to seek alternative, more humane, ways of dealing with families of children and adolescents involved in the juvenile court system. Edwards states that the “juvenile court is society’s means of holding children accountable for their conduct and parents accountable for raising children to be productive members of the larger community” (1996). Through proper techniques and comprehensive ways of dealing with conflicts within families, the juvenile court system can truly help resolve family-related problems in the most effective way possible. One of these ways is by unifying the family court. The fact is that “ a family may have several related legal problems which, under the existing judicial structure, are heard by different judges in different courts at different times and places” (Edwards, 1996). This simply does not make any sense and showcases how the current judicial court system is not servicing the people in the best way available. By allowing the “juvenile court [to] become a part of a larger administrative structure [with] integrated jurisdiction over most or all legal problems that involve family-related issues,” “conflicting [court] orders” can be reduced tremendously (Edwards, 1996).
Proposal 2: Alternative dispute resolution
In addition to allowing families with multiple family issues to visit only one judge to reduce possible conflicts in the future, the community can be used as a reliable resource in helping families and children get over their problems without having to go through the formalities of court. By allowing “family members to meet in a confidential setting [with] trained professionals,” alternative methods such as “mediation, peer or teen courts, family conferencing, and settlement conferences” can be employed as a way of taking care of “legal and social issues which appear before the court” (Edwards, 1996). Through this, the courts would no longer serve as the primary party to make decisions but instead would simply “monitor and approve the agreements worked out by the [alternative] parties” (Edwards, 1996).
Proposal 3: Correcting only criminal behavior by using the community, private and volunteer parties as primary resources
While the juvenile court system is a very important aspect of helping children and adolescents stay away from further crime by punishing crime, there are many noncriminal cases, which are dealt within the juvenile court system. This doesn’t make any sense because more comprehensive resources, such as “community-based services”, should be used for noncriminal cases in order to be a highly effective and efficient juvenile court system (Edwards, 1996). According to Edwards, the “juvenile court jurisdiction of status offenses [include] truancy, beyond control of parents, running away from home, and other noncriminal conduct” when it should only include criminal cases (1996). By not using the juvenile court system for these types of issues, “this type of behavior would be addressed increasingly by community-based services” (Edwards, 1996). Therefore addressing the real needs of children and adolescents involved in these kinds of cases. If a child or adolescent hasn’t committed a crime, there shouldn’t be a reason why noncriminal cases should be handled by the same entities as criminal cases. Thus, “the juvenile court of the future should be able to take advantage of community resources more effectively by turning to volunteers and public-private partnerships for support” to truly create the most effective and efficient juvenile court system which serves the people in a comprehensive way as humans, not just a number on a court case.
- Edwards, Hon. Leonard P. (1996). “The Future of the Juvenile Court: Promising New Directions.” THE JUVENILE COURT, Vol (6), 131-137.