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    Net Widening in the Juvenile Justice System Essay

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    The juvenile justice system was developed separately from the adult system to specifically address the crimes committed by minors. As society recognized that the underlying causes of juvenile delinquency are different from that of the adults, it consequently strove to develop a different approach to it.

    Thus, the juvenile justice system concerns itself with intervention and rehabilitation rather than punishment. This practice, however, resulted in the phenomenon of net-widening, whereby more individuals are controlled by the justice system, which can bring more harm than benefit in terms of reducing juvenile delinquency.

    Net widening is the term used to describe the growing number of individuals placed under the control of the criminal justice system. It happens as a result of the implementation of new legal and administrative provisions and adoption of new practices.

    The word “net” refers to the net of social control that aims to shape and influence individual behavior. Initially, the net widening phenomenon concerned only the juvenile justice system but later spread into the other areas of law.

    The primary mechanism of net widening is the so-called diversion programs that aim to provide early intervention and prevention for potential criminals.

    Diversion programs are perceived as an alternative to punishment and consequent imprisonment, which is especially important given the problem of mass incarceration – however, their effectiveness is sometimes questionable.

    An example of net widening in the juvenile justice system is the introduction of status offenses, or those acts that are considered criminal only if committed by a designated group of people.

    Minors, in particular, can be held accountable for several transgressions that do not apply to adults: for instance, for truancy, underage drinking and smoking, violation of curfew, loitering, and running away from home.

    Although the specific list of status offenses depends on the particular state legislation, it is nevertheless clear that these transgressions bring a lot more juveniles under the control of the criminal justice system than the “adult” crimes would.

    Social change is responsible for the introduction of the status offenses, as adolescents used to be tried in the regular courts and no specific provisions existed for them.

    While I generally support prevention and rehabilitation measures, I believe that net widening can produce some undesirable consequences for juvenile offenders. In general, teenagers are at the stage of human development where they are more susceptible to external influence and peer pressure.

    Since many diversion programs bring adolescents together, delinquent behavior can be self-perpetuating in such groups. When delinquent teenagers share their experience, other peers can perceive it in a positive light and romanticize criminal acts. Other programs, intended to scare adolescents from crime, expose them to jails and prisoners.

    However, such a practice can also be a double-edged sword as some juveniles may see the prisoners as role models and a source of inspiration. Moreover, a certain stigma may be attached to delinquent juveniles who also start perceiving themselves as criminals.

    Thus, net widening can be a rather problematic phenomenon as more and more people are placed under the control of the justice system. Consequently, I believe that more research should be done to develop effective prevention programs that do not have a negative impact on its participants.

    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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    Net Widening in the Juvenile Justice System Essay. (2023, Jan 13). Retrieved from

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