The concept of a juvenile court system was put into practice in the United States in the late 1800s and early 1900s, based on the premise that youthful offenders should be handled differently from adults. As a rule, proceedings in juvenile courts are more informal than in adult courts. Juvenile courts also take a less adversarial stance toward defendants. However, in practice the juvenile court system presents some disadvantages.
Early intervention with a young offender helps prevent future criminal acts. According to a report from the National Center for Juvenile Justice, the juvenile court system has the best chance of stopping a delinquent from committing crimes again if it intervenes as early as possible. For the court to intervene in a timely fashion, it must expedite case processing. The delays associated with the juvenile court system are one disadvantage of the system. It is not clear whether the delays are because the courts are overloaded or because they are inefficient.
Although juvenile courts were set up with the idea that informal proceedings would be beneficial for young offenders, in reality informality has become a disadvantage. This informality can result in overlooking juvenile defendants’ due process rights, according to Preston Elrod and R. Scott Ryder in "Juvenile Justice: A Social, Historical and Legal Perspective." Juveniles and their parents should be aware of their rights and feel comfortable exercising them. However, many are not familiar with their rights.
No Orientation to Juveniles
Juvenile courts' ability to address the problems of juvenile offenders is limited. Although a part of their mandate is to control and reform these offenders, they often lack the understanding or the resources to fulfill this mandate, according to Elrod and Ryder. Often these courts opt for quick fixes such as coercion and imprisonment, rather than long-term solutions.