Plea Bargaining for Juvenile Delinquents
Over the last couple of decades, plea bargaining has become an acceptable means by which court cases are disposed of in the American criminal justice system. This evolved because of the tremendous number of cases that accrued after drug laws changed during the 1980s. In order to make criminal cases heard more quickly, defendants were sometimes approached with “deals.” If they plead guilty and gave up the right to a jury trial, they would receive a lesser sentence. While this is an effective means of disposing cases within the adult legal system, it is not appropriate for use in the juvenile system of criminal justice.
A trial in juvenile court is different from trial in an adult court. It does not require the presence of a jury, and thus, they do not generally take a large amount of time. As such there is no backlog of cases waiting to be heard. Thus, the reason for plea bargaining in adult cases is not present in juvenile courts.
Generally, many authorities believe that juveniles are more likely to benefit from rehabilitation then adults with regard to criminal behavior. Sine many adult criminals have substance abuse histories and poor training and education, juveniles, if caught, can be placed in programs that will further their education and training so that they can get jobs as adults. Additionally, they can receive counseling to reduce the chance of being addicted to drugs or alcohol. Such therapeutic interventions decrease the likelihood of further criminal activity once they become adults.
If juveniles are allowed to plea bargain, they may not receive the rehabilitation or treatment necessary for their full rehabilitation. Part of the problem is that plea-bargaining may not allow the juvenile to be properly identified as needing a certain type of program.
To participate in plea bargaining for juveniles in most states would generally be a waste of time. In many states, the punishments that are mandated are generally not related to the charge. So, the notion of pleading to a lessor charge is not possible because there are no variations in charges with varying sentences.
Some would suggest that the juvenile court system is almost entirely plea-bargaining. Usually, the juvenile admits his crime, and the lawyers and judge determine the best course of action for the juvenile. There is more leeway in most juvenile courts as to degree and length of punishment given to young individual.
In conclusion, it would appear that plea-bargaining is not in the best interest of juveniles. The purpose of the juvenile system should be to rehabilitate these individuals so that they will not commit crimes as adults.