The US Juvenile Justice System

Subject: Law
Pages: 5
Words: 1121
Reading time:
5 min
Study level: School


Juvenile Delinquency is a serious problem in today’s society. The world, in which children descend into crime, seems to have its social mechanisms working wrong. In many countries to amend this situation, special institutions were elaborated to deal with young lawbreakers to prevent them from threading on a criminal path again. However, there might be an alternative view. Some researchers argue that the exposure to juvenile justice system results in recidivist behaviors in children (Yampolskaya, & Chuang, 2012). In the U.S., the juvenile justice system is divided into four models that utilize different approaches to youth delinquency. Rehabilitation, justice, crime control, and restorative models all have a unique philosophy behind them and seem to have different answers to juvenile delinquency. There is a need to discover, which model seems to be the best in the current U.S. setting, and how juvenile justice contributes to or prevents delinquency.

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Rehabilitation Model

The rehabilitation or treatment model is based on the assumption that young offenders need a special approach that grants them passage back to normal society through psychological recovery (Bartollas, & Schmalleger, 2013). In this paradigm, delinquency in youth is viewed broadly and includes offenses that do not have victims and, therefore, do not need to be punished with the full weight of the law. The human character seems to be shaped by many factors in life and children are extremely susceptible to various influences. They usually tend to develop their moral code based on actions they see most often in reality, which for different social groups can be dissimilar. In light of this, significant doubt about the effectiveness of the rehabilitation model could arise. Professional psychological help could be influential to the extent that the young delinquent believes in it and the effect may be proportional to the rehabilitative care provider’s authority over them.

Justice Model

The Justice model implies that if young offenders are capable of committing a crime they have to bear responsibility for their actions. It also considers such children to possess adequate mental capabilities to comprehend that they act against social and legal norms. Therefore, such young individuals need to be punished in accordance with the severity of their crime. Here the question of age becomes pivotal. In the U.S., there is currently no minimum age for criminal responsibility (Child Rights International Network, n.d.). There seems to be no universal paradigm for assessing a child’s ability to be aware of the consequences of their actions as the levels of education and psychological maturity are different throughout various populations. Therefore each case is individual and various tests should be applied to evaluate social norms awareness.

This approach seems to be well-balanced and socially acceptable. The reason for this is that it represents and upholds a basic social principle, according to which all actions are judged by their benefit or harm to society. Families as social units begin to form that understanding in children by punishing them for misbehaviors and awarding for achievements. If the family fails to bring up a morally sane individual, then society itself becomes a regulator and tries to fulfill that role. The measure of punishment needs to be carefully chosen in order not to worsen the individual’s misconception of social norms. The problem here is that the justice model seems to place little value on young individuals realizing that justice is done to them. If a delinquent does not understand or admit their guilt, the effect of the punishment may be minimal, however, just it may seem.

Crime Control Model

The crime control approach seems to be similar to the justice model as both of them value punishment as a deterrent to crime sprawl. The difference is that crime control puts an emphasis on the duty of the justice system as a protector of the innocent. It seems reasonable but its practical application may face difficulties. The main barrier here is identifying the victim with a hundred percent certainty, which could sometimes be challenging due to the peculiarities of the investigation process, the ambiguity of evidence, and many other factors. In addition, placing an individual with other delinquents may not be a wise choice, as they tend to conform to the new social strata and associate themselves with criminals. According to Tsui (2014), the practice of imprisonment often leads to an increased incidence of repeated relapse into crime.

Restorative Justice Model

Restorative justice stresses the value of a community as the main force that can prevent the reoccurrence of criminal behavior among young delinquents. Different modes of freedom restriction are deemed ineffective in the framework of the restorative model. Also, a victim partakes in the process of young delinquent rehabilitation serving as one of the forces that contribute to guild admittance. The model attempts to find a balance between exposure of delinquents to formal judicial organs and state institutions that often have little authority over them and emphasize their duty to the community (Tsui, 2014). As stated earlier, the community seems to have a more significant capacity to influence and shape behavior than an impersonal judicial system. Responsibility before those who suffered harm from a young offender’s actions should become a priority. Therefore, this justice model seems like a more balanced approach to combating crime among youth.


Juvenile justice can be diverse in relation to offenders but when it comes to effective crime prevention and mitigation of consequences, not all of the approaches discussed in the paper seem to be equally effective. While punishment-based models appear to be just and acceptable in society they rarely demonstrate good results as claimed by Tsui (2014). Nonetheless, juvenile justice could bring substantial results if it is oriented on delinquent understanding and accepting his or her guilt. If morale and socially acceptable behaviors are formed mostly in the community then it is only natural for it to take part in mitigating the consequences of crime. Therefore, the restorative model seems to be more promising than other approaches.

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On the other hand, there is no universal approach and fit-for-all solution as each case of juvenile delinquency is unique and requires a tailored approach. Ideally, depending on the gravity of the matter, every concerned party should participate in the resolution of the situation. The key goal should be the prevention of recidivist behaviors. Early exposure to the criminal justice system as it is, with the penitentiary system and official legal procedures, could make a future criminal out of a young person with no hard moral code to rely on. That is why it is paramount that each case is handled delicately. Family, community and victims should all work together to raise morally strong individuals from the next generation. All things, considered, there is room for improvement in juvenile justice.


Bartollas, C., & Schmalleger, F. (2013). Juvenile Delinquency (9th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson.

Child Rights International Network. (n.d.) Minimum ages of criminal responsibility in the Americas. Web.

Tsui, J. C. (2014). Breaking free do the prison paradigm: Integrating restorative justice techniques into Chicago’s juvenile justice system. The Journal of Criminal Law & Criminology, 104(3), 635-665.

Yampolskaya, S., & Chuang, E. (2012). Effects of mental health disorders on the risk of juvenile justice system involvement and recidivism among children placed in out-of-home care. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 82(4), 585- 593.