delinquent | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee
Course: Introduction / Juvenile Justice

A delinquent is a  juvenile who has committed an act that would be called a “crime” if the actor was an adult.

In the juvenile justice system, a delinquent is a young person who has committed a delinquent act, which is an act that would be considered a crime if committed by an adult. The term “delinquent” is used to distinguish these individuals from those who have been adjudicated as “dependent,” meaning that they are in need of protection or care due to circumstances such as abuse, neglect, or abandonment.

When a juvenile is accused of a delinquent act, they are subject to a separate system of justice designed specifically for minors. The juvenile justice system is intended to focus on rehabilitation and reformation rather than punishment, recognizing that children and adolescents are still developing and can be more readily influenced by positive interventions.

In most jurisdictions, the juvenile justice system has its own set of laws, procedures, and court processes that are distinct from those used for adults. These laws often include provisions for diversion, counseling, and community service as alternatives to formal adjudication and punishment. Juvenile courts also have the authority to order rehabilitative services, such as drug treatment, counseling, or education, that are tailored to the individual needs of the juvenile offender.

The goal of the juvenile justice system is to rehabilitate and reform delinquent youth, rather than to punish them. The system recognizes that many young people who engage in delinquent behavior do so as a result of underlying problems such as poverty, family dysfunction, or mental health issues. By addressing these underlying issues and providing youth with the tools and resources they need to succeed, the juvenile justice system seeks to reduce recidivism and promote positive outcomes for young people.

One of the key differences between the juvenile and adult justice systems is the use of incarceration. While adults are often sentenced to prison for criminal offenses, juveniles are typically placed in juvenile detention centers or residential facilities. These facilities are intended to provide a structured environment that is safe and supportive while also providing youth with the education and life skills they need to succeed.

Overall, the juvenile justice system is designed to address the unique needs and challenges of young people who have engaged in delinquent behavior. By focusing on rehabilitation and reformation rather than punishment, the system aims to help youth overcome the challenges they face and become productive members of society. While the system is not without its flaws and challenges, it remains an important tool for promoting positive outcomes for young people and reducing the prevalence of delinquent behavior in our communities.

[ Glossary ]

Last Modified: 04/10/2023


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