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    Criminal Justice Argumentative Essay

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    Before the sixteenth century, children were considered either property to be traded or small adults. By the age of 5 or 6, they were expected to assume the role of an adult. As the centuries moved forward, the views of children changed. Children were seen not as miniature adults, but as having a distinct personality. They were easily corrupted and needed to be corrected to become moral and productive members of society. In the colonial era of America, the family was the basic unit of economic production and the main outlet for social interaction. Religion was also a main staple that held a community together, and it is where families turned to when they had trouble in the home.

    As the country grew, so did the need for institutions for youth offenders. These places were called houses of refuge.” The youth in these places were reformed into hard-working, productive members of society. Their stay in one of these places was for a determined time or until they reached the age of 18 or 21, depending on their crime and their willingness to reform and become responsible citizens. By the end of the 1800s, different types of institutions and mechanisms had been developed to respond to difficult children.

    Still, the problems presented by the children who were believed to be in need of some type of correction were the homeless, neglected, abused, wayward, and those with criminal behavior. A new group of reformers called the child savers” advocated for a new institution to deal with these youth problems. Thus began the juvenile courts. By the late 1800s, the legal mechanism was in place for treating youth differently from adults. Examples of this were jurisdictions that had set a minimum age at which a juvenile could be charged as an adult and placed in adult penitentiaries. The legal philosophy justifying state intervention in the lives of children is the doctrine of “parens patriae” (the state as parent), which was given judicial endorsement in the case of Mary Ann Crouse. She had been committed to the Philadelphia House of Refuge by her mother as punishment, against her father’s wishes.

    The Commonwealth Supreme Court of Pennsylvania stated that it was not a punishment but a benevolence. Therefore, no due process claim could be made by the father. Additionally, the father had no standing because the Commonwealth had the legal responsibility to step in when the parents were irresponsible in their obligations to their children. In the 1905 case of Commonwealth vs. Fisher, an interesting question arose, and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that parens patriae always trumps due process in juvenile justice. When the Commonwealth acts on parens patriae, no due process protection is necessary. Treatment plans are not needed because it is assumed that anything the Commonwealth does to a child in its custody is better than what the parents could provide.

    The Fisher case set the tone for juvenile justice up until the 1960s. An activist United States Supreme Court in the 1960s significantly altered the juvenile justice system, setting the tone for today’s courts. Three cases worth looking at are Kent vs.

    The US (1966): This is the first full-scale examination of the juvenile justice system brought on by the case of a 16-year-old rapist who was transferred to adult court. The justices ruled that such waivers or transfers should be accompanied by a special hearing, the assistance of counsel, access to records by such counsel, and a written statement of reasons for such transfer.

    In re Gault (1967): A landmark case on the failure of the juvenile justice system involving a 15-year-old adjudicated delinquent on the word of an Arizona sheriff’s deputy sentenced to 6 years for an offense (telephone harassment) that carried a two-month penalty if committed as an adult. The Justices ruled that juveniles deserve the right against self-incrimination (Miranda Rights), adequate notice of charge, the right to confront and cross-examine accusers, assistance of counsel, and the rights of sworn testimony and appeal.

    With this, the juvenile courts became more formal and adversarial. The third case is McKeiver v. Pennsylvania (1971), a seminal case that slowed down the granting of due process rights to juveniles by denying them a trial by jury. The justices thought that bench trials were adequate and that America wasn’t yet ready to abandon the philosophy of juvenile justice as a less than fully adversarial process. The fundamental difference between adult court and juvenile court is that juveniles are given a little more latitude when the judge is considering the sentence for the offender, and the guidelines differ in the length of time and where the sentence is carried out.

    This essay was written by a fellow student. You may use it as a guide or sample for writing your own paper, but remember to cite it correctly. Don’t submit it as your own as it will be considered plagiarism.

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    Criminal Justice Argumentative Essay. (2019, Jan 19). Retrieved from

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