Graduation Year

Fall 2013

Document Type

Campus Only Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Department

Government

Second Department

Legal Studies

Reader 1

Ralph Rossum

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© 2013 Bennett Jones

Abstract

The juvenile justice system was originally set up under the philosophy that juveniles are inherently different than adults and therefore should not be subject to same harsh punishment as adult criminals. Rehabilitative treatment methods became the center of the juvenile justice system in order to reduce recidivism rates and help reintegrate youths back into society as smoothly as possible. This philosophy changed early in the 21st century, and many states began treating youth offenders in ways similar to adult offenders, with a particular increase in direct files of juveniles to adult court. After about a decade of harsh punishment, the system once again reverted back to the rehabilitative model. California did so through several legislative reforms; however these reforms have not been as successful as they should have been, and the system is still in a state of disarray.

California is currently balancing a failing state juvenile justice system while trying to simultaneously support realignment efforts to the county level. After evaluating the failures of Division of Juvenile Justice and the capacity of the counties, it is evident that counties are not only physically equipped to take on the increased responsibility but are much better suited to do so financially. To best uphold the original goals of the juvenile justice system and the rehabilitative model, California should move to close the Division of Juvenile Justice and completely realign all responsibility to the counties. Keeping juveniles close to their communities creates stronger ties, more continuity of treatment, and reduces the likelihood a youth will reoffend. By tailoring treatment to the individual on a local level, problems such as mental illness, substance abuse, and anger management, can be directly targeted and solved. Intervening at first arrest with effective treatment programs is crucial to decreasing the chance that a juvenile will become a career adult criminal. These juveniles are the future of society; focusing on the rehabilitation of these youths will not only increase community safety but will also produce healthy, productive citizens to contribute to the economy.

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