Legal Framework of Youth Justice
Since 1975, the Juvenile Law Center has worked to ensure that juveniles involved in juvenile justice have strong and meaningful rights, access to education and developmental treatment, and opportunities to become healthy and productive adults. The Juvenile Justice Centre works for a world that affirms the unique and developmental qualities of young people, ensures fair and equitable treatment, and guarantees opportunities for success in adulthood. Juvenile justice has developed since 1899 and has evolved considerably. Originally, the trial was informal – often nothing more than a conversation between the juvenile and the judge – and the accused was not represented by a lawyer. The proceedings were conducted behind closed doors without the public or the community knowing how the juvenile court functioned or what had happened to the children appearing before it. Instead of imprisoning juveniles with adults in prisons, the first juvenile courts established a probation system and separate rehabilitation and treatment centres to provide supervision, guidance and education of juveniles. Today`s youth justice system maintains rehabilitation as the primary focus and differs from the criminal justice system in important respects. With few exceptions, delinquency is defined in most States as the commission of a crime by a child under the age of 18 at the time; Most states also allow juveniles to remain under the supervision of the juvenile court until the age of 21. Instead of prison, juvenile judges rely on a range of legal options to address both the public safety needs and the treatment needs of juveniles, although juveniles may be incarcerated in juvenile detention centers that too often resemble adult prisons and prisons. and regularly engage in prison practices such as solitary confinement, patrol searches and the use of chemical or mechanical restrictions. The new Department of Youth and Community Restoration, which is expected to be established in July 2020, will include a training institute for correctional officers and an internal supervision department. West, “As Newsom Rethinks Juvenile Justice,” 2019; and Jazmine Ulloa, “California Probation Chiefs Brace for Changes to the Juvenile Justice System,” Los Angeles Times, April 21, 2019, www.latimes.com/politics/la-pol-ca-probation-juvenile-justice-20190421-story.html.
Supporters mostly welcomed the decision, noting that “when systems are connected to organizations that focus on health, healing, and a link to resources that can help. They are able to do a better job. Sammy Caiola, “Is Governor Gavin Newsom`s Juvenile Justice Reform Substantial or Symbolic? Experts dis-le`s a wait-and-see approach”, Capital Public Radio, 24 January 2019, perma.cc/83LV-ELRB. However, some have warned that the move must be more than “just a change of letterhead.” Ibid. The reorganization is supported by the implementation in January 2020 of a 2018 law that sets the minimum age for prosecution at 12, including in cases brought before juvenile courts, except in cases of murder and rape. California SB 439 (2018), perma.cc/A3BR-A45C. The detention of juvenile offenders in adult prisons also puts juveniles at real risk. From raising the age at which children can be brought before adult court to examining the conditions under which they can be held, jurisdictions across the country have been thinking about how to meet the unique needs of children and young adults in the criminal justice system. See, for example, Dana Goldstein, “Who`s a Kid?” The Marshall Project, October 27, 2016, perma.cc/2JVS-GNHT; Clarice Silber, “New Prison Unit Opens to Help Young Female Inmates,” Connecticut Mirror, July 9, 2018, perma.cc/YNA8-ZLV8; Robert Hayes, “Young Offender Unit Opens at Middlesex Jail & House of Correction,” Wilmington Apple, February 16, 2018, perma.cc/5XQW-JEFL; and Vera Institute of Justice, “Restoring Promise,” perma.cc/E69F-8E2Y. But there is still room for improvement. As Monique Morris explored in her 2019 documentary Pushout: The Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools, children of color and young adults — particularly Black children — as well as LGBTQ youth are disproportionately affected by contact with the justice system. Pushout: The criminalization of black girls in schools (Women in the Room Productions, 2019).
See also Dr. Monique W. Morris, “PUSHOUT Documentary,” perma.cc/YG7C-EYVM; and Samantha Ehrmann, Nina Hyland, and Charles Puzzanchera, Girls in the Juvenile Justice System (Washington, DC: Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, 2019), perma.cc/LS8Q-Q55M. In 2019, Pacific Coast states took steps to address these concerns and reform their juvenile justice systems. A movement has developed throughout the country to undermine juvenile justice and eliminate any distinction between juvenile and adult offenders. Over the past two years, nearly all 50 states have revised their juvenile court laws so that more juveniles than adults can be tried and longstanding protections are removed to rehabilitate delinquent children and prevent future crimes. At the federal level, members of Congress have proposed bills to undermine crime prevention programs and use the expiration of the Juvenile Courts and Crime Prevention Act of 1974 last September to dismantle the prevention and rehabilitation goals of the nation`s juvenile justice system. Newsom has signed a number of other bills that are expected to reduce juvenile participation in the criminal justice system, including limiting school suspensions, referring cases to juvenile courts, extending the upper age limit for juvenile detention to 24, and improving access to education for incarcerated juveniles. For a full summary of laws signed by juvenile courts, see Jeremy Loudenback, “California Governor Newsom Vetoes Effort to Shrink State Juvenile Justice Agency,” Chronicle of Social Change, October 14, 2019, perma.cc/X6UP-RCZ6. But he vetoed a bill that would have increased the fees counties must pay the state to send minors into state custody. California SB 284 (2019), perma.cc/6Z5K-AXXW.
Proponents had hoped that the higher costs of incarceration would encourage counties to keep minors out of state detention and close to their homes and communities with the intervention of the judiciary, improving their chances of success. Loudenback, “California Governor Newsom Vetoes Effort,” 2019. Vetoing the bill, the governor said he agreed with the principles behind it, but thought it would undermine the proposed Department of Youth and Community Restoration. The lack of due process and constitutional due process in the juvenile justice system – and the potential for children to deprive themselves of liberty for long periods of detention, even in juvenile facilities – were highlighted in the landmark 1967 decision of the U.S. Supreme Court. In the Gault case, in the United States, the Supreme Court noted that the Constitution requires that juveniles accused of delinquency in juvenile courts enjoy the same due process rights as adults accused of crimes, including the right to counsel and the right to confront prosecution witnesses.