A society that struggles with incidences of lawlessness is unlikely to realize important goals and objectives. It allocates significant resources to addressing the negative effects of this malpractice at the expense of the development and empowerment of its citizens. The criminal justice system ensures that populations uphold laws, regulations, values, and virtues that guide behavior. In his review, Humes (1997) presents an explicit description of his primary observations and secondary experiences of the juvenile justice system of Los Angeles during the 1990s. He points out the weaknesses of this particular system and underscores ways through which it can be improved. Seemingly, the duties overwhelm its officers including judges, public defenders, probation officers, and attorneys. This has far-reaching implications on the quality of services that the institution provides. The author spends part of his time as a teacher in a writing class that is attended by juveniles awaiting their case disposition. Through interactive sessions, he allows them to express their perceptions as well as feelings with regard to their lives and experiences. Basically, Humes (1997) portrays the system as chaotic but believes measures can be undertaken to improve the situation.
The author proceeds to detail the crimes that the juveniles committed vividly. The experiences of the seven youths provide useful information with respect to the complexities that surround the system. Besides evaluating the experiences of the youths, he analyzes the encounters of judges. In particular, he describes the challenges that Judge Dorn faces during the analysis of the juvenile cases. Seemingly, many controversies undermine decision-making regarding whether the juveniles must remain in the system or be transferred to adult courts. Judge Dorn’s controversial ideals concerning the manner in which juvenile cases should be addressed raise various conflicts between the defense, attorneys, and his court. Resultantly, a significant percentage of the young criminals fail to be tried in juvenile courts, but are sent to adult courts. Judge Dorn opposes this policy and instead re adopts the ‘status offences’ principle (Humes, 1997). With this, he is able to place high risk children in group homes, delinquent camps, and juvenile detention facilities. He strongly believes that these settings help the youngsters to reform.
Unlike Judge Dorn, the author presents the deputy district attorney as harsh and non-compromising. She focuses more on pursuing justice than on reforming the delinquents. Peggy Beckstrand believes that some children can simply not be changed. This philosophy is in sharp contrast with judge Dorn’s and thus causes conflicts periodically. The author portrays Sister Janet as a persistent officer who hopes that all juveniles would change if given the right conditions as well as time. Also worth mentioning is Sharon Stegall, a probation officer who assumes responsibility for Carla James’ case.
Notably, politics influence decision making and policy formulation in this system. The tough laws and regulations that were passed during this period of time were largely responsible the increasing number of undeserving juvenile cases in adult courts. Nonetheless, the stringent laws are also attributable to the behaviors of certain juveniles like Ronald Duncan. Reportedly, he was accused of murdering two of his colleagues brutally. He was a sociopath who did not show any form of remorse even after being found guilty of the offence (Humes, 1997). Besides this case, the author covers the incidences of other children who seem to be treated randomly by the system. Seemingly, the system fails to punish one nonredeemable child, fails three and saves three. Throughout the study, the author cites that the juvenile criminal justice system of this county is unable to deal with majority of cases. He recognizes the efforts of individuals who labor endlessly to help the needy children too.
There are various emergent themes that are apparent in this study. To begin with, the author presents the juvenile criminal justice system as being highly ineffective as well as dysfunctional. In addition to its offices being understaffed, it has poor funding and limited infrastructure. Its detention facilities and group homes are inadequate. Moreover, it has very limited monitoring officers that are unable to oversee operations in its entire institutions. The legal provisions of the system are equally flawed. In this regard, their rigid nature encourages institution of tough punitive measures for petty offenders. However, it treats serious offenders leniently. A classic example of such an incident pertains to Duncan’s case. According to the study, he killed two individuals and failed to show remorse for this act. The law provides that he is tried in an adult case and thus, he is accorded consideration.
Conversely, the system treats the cases of Geri, Elias and George harshly. The judge proceeds to imprisoning these children due to his inability to act outside imprisonment provisions. In this case, the juvenile court is bureaucratic and places undue emphasis on characteristic technicalities. It fails to put in consideration the wellbeing of the children and protection of societal sustainability. Instead of reforming the juveniles and contributing to attainment of a desirable state of social order, the laws frustrate the youngsters and make them more dangerous criminals. This is consistent with the provisions of the labeling theory that postulates that stigmatization leads to development of criminal identities. Ultimately, the affected children become hopeless and find it difficult to mend their behaviors and live fulfilling lifestyles. The outcomes of such a scenario have negative effects to all stakeholders.
The study supports the view that juvenile criminals have an important role to play in their reform process. Notably, this facet of the society can assume responsibility for its actions. Juveniles have the ability to think critically and uphold important social values. This can be attained if they are accorded sufficient guidance. Assumedly, individual kids contribute directly to the success of the entire system. The author presents Carla as a child that underwent positive behavioral transformation after going through the system. However, children such as Duncan fail to assume responsibility for their lives and actions regardless of their having been accorded considerable leniency. This implies that the wellbeing of juveniles including their ability to reform is partly attributed to individual decisions. While some of the children are irredeemable, others take the opportunity to reflect on their lives and assume acceptable lifestyles.
Also, the author highlights conflicting stances with respect to the role of the criminal justice system. One of the groups in the text believes that the criminal justice system is responsible for helping children to mend their ways by providing viable intervention measures. From the point of view of this group, this should be done early enough before considerable behavioral damage is realized. For instance, Judge Dorn emphasizes on the need for children to wake up early. According to him, this practice contributes positively to their reform and prevents them from engaging in juvenile crime. However, the second group believes that the sole responsibility of the criminal justice system is to promote justice at all times. Accordingly, it insists on the need to punish juvenile criminals severely. Notably, The Deputy District Attorney represents this faction. She strongly held the view that certain perpetrators are habitual criminals whose behaviors cannot be amended. These views are in line with the provisions of the individual trait models that postulate that psychological and biological traits contribute to criminal behavior. These cannot be changed and thus justice can only be attained through retribution.
The study reveals that there are various factors that contribute in different ways to criminal behaviors amongst youngsters. Seemingly, the children that get involved in criminal behavior are compelled by various factors to make the respective decisions. Most of them struggle with poverty and related difficulties. There exists a close relationship between juvenile criminal behavior and socio economic status. According to the study’s interviews, most children affirmed having lived in poverty before deciding to engage in criminal activities and/or joining criminal gangs. Also, racism and ethnicity contribute to this state of affairs. In this regard, some kids stated that they joined criminal gangs in order to be offered protection. In addition to poverty, ethnicity, and racism, unstable neighborhoods and use and abuse of drugs contribute to juvenile crime. This information provides useful insights regarding sustainable ways that can be used to combat juvenile crime. Addressing the root causes can go a long way in resolving the problem.
Undoubtedly, the study makes significant positive contributions to the existent literature on juvenile criminal justice. Humes (1997) identifies the flaws of the system and their contributions to inefficiency. As indicated above, various weaknesses including bureaucracy, conflicts amongst stakeholders and insufficient funding contribute to the undesirable state of affairs. Since the prepositions are based on factual information, the solutions that can be deduced would be workable. For instance, addressing the root causes such as racism and ethnicity are sustainable strategies to reforming the juvenile system. Also, this research evaluates the systemic nature of the institution and the importance of each stakeholder to its wellbeing. Apparently, the contributions that each party makes are imperative in enhancing quality performance. This supports the need for harmonic co existence and appreciation of the efforts of each facet. Upholding strong relationships can enable the system to attain its fundamental goals and objectives.
The study emphasizes on the importance of reforming the system in order to restore confidence in its operations. Proactive approaches such as providing the children with sufficient resources and time to improve their behaviors are more rewarding. Furthermore, giving the children relevant tools that help them to assume new lifestyles can yield optimal outcomes. Generally, the study is insightful in the sense that it helps the audience to understand the complexities that surround the system. Based on the findings, stakeholders can devise viable and objective ways to address the problem effectively. Besides reforming the current state, the information contained herein provides suitable alternatives that can be used to improve the practice in future. Thus, in addition to resolving current problems, Humes (1997) paves way for empowerment of the future society.
Humes, E. (1997). No matter how loud I shout. New York: Simon & Schuster