How does the Focus and Purpose of the Juvenile Justice System Compare to that of the Criminal Justice System in Maryland?

The juvenile justice system in Maryland covers youth under the age of 18 who are accused of acts that are criminal in nature and would be charged criminally if committed by an adult. The focus and purpose of the juvenile system, and the outcomes of cases, vary from that of the adult system. Just because a youth is facing a petition through the juvenile court system and not through the adult criminal justice system does not mean that the parents, family, or child should not take this matter seriously. If you or someone in your family is facing a petition in the juvenile courts, it can be of great assistance to contact an attorney familiar with representing youths in these matters.

Focus of the Juvenile Justice System

The juvenile system of justice in Maryland, like in other jurisdictions, is concerned with the well-being, supervision, and rehabilitation of the child. The goal is not to specifically punish children who are found to be delinquent, but to protect society, restore victims, and put the child on a course to improve behaviors going forward in life. The juvenile justice system attempts to balance between the interests of the child and the interests of society when considering how to treat delinquent youth.

How does the stated purpose of the Juvenile Justice System differ from the Criminal Justice System?
Like the juvenile justice system the criminal justice system is also concerned with rehabilitation of offenders. However the criminal system is mostly focused on punishment and retribution, as the accused are adults and are held at a higher level of accountability than youths. The juvenile justice system seeks to avoid harsh punishment when possible and prefers giving youths a chance to improve, develop, and grow to become rehabilitated once adults.

Outcomes in the Juvenile Justice System

Because the stated purpose of the juvenile justice system is rehabilitation and reformation, the resulting outcome from a delinquent finding can be much more intensive than what an adult might face if convicted of the identical offense in criminal court. For instance, a juvenile who is found delinquent may be ordered to be under constant supervision by the Department of Juvenile Services, have grades, attendance, and behavior in school monitored, may be subject to curfews or GPS monitoring, have to complete community service, and complete restitution in a case. While the juvenile may avoid having to spend time in a detention center these are still severe consequences curtailing that child’s freedom.

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