At this point in time there is a separate system for trying juvenile offenders than there is for trying adults, barring a juvenile committing a heinous crime and then being classified as an adult. One of the reasons this difference exists is because the juvenile justice system is based upon the idea of rehabilitation while the adult system is designed to punish the offender (Simpson, 1976). Also, juveniles tend to be tried in a closed court and there records are sealed in order to prevent children from starting adulthood with a criminal record (Jlc.org, 2015). No matter how one looks at it, having a separate system for juveniles is a necessity.
While people like Anna Simpson have questioned the validity of how we run the juvenile justice system as far back as 1976, there is little question that juveniles need to be in a different system than adults. Children do not have the cognitive development of adults, or the reasoning skills of adults (Jlc.org, 2015). They are prone to take part in activities as a result of peer pressure or in rebellion towards authority without fully taking the time to comprehend the possible consequences of their actions.
In the 80’s and 90’s people tried to change the juvenile system to a “get tough” system, and crime increased substantially (Jlc.org, 2015). Once a more rehabilitative approach was adopted, crime dropped again. This is another reason that children need a different system; the system that is used with adults is not effective with children.
Another reason to keep juveniles separate is that they could be in danger should they be incarcerated with adults. Considering the amount of gang activity, violence and rapes that take place in adult prisons, children would be especially vulnerable to being abused by other inmates.
Jlc.org,. (2015). Youth in the Justice System: An Overview | Juvenile Law Center. Retrieved 14 July 2015, from http://www.jlc.org/news-room/media-resources/youth-justice-system- overview
Simpson, A. (1976). Rehabilitation as the Justification of a Separate Juvenile Justice System. California Law Review, 64(4), 984. doi:10.2307/3479922