Levels of Punishment for Juveniles
- When a juvenile first enters the juvenile justice system, he may be placed in a diversion program. Diversion programs are typically offered to juveniles who have been arrested for the first time for a petty offense. Diversions are used to keep children out of the court system and to give them the opportunity to learn from their mistake. Diversions are periods of supervision, usually three to 12 months in length, and typically require the youth to complete community service, counseling or some other type of consequence.
Supervision and Probation
- Supervision and probation are periods of supervision that are ordered by a judge in juvenile court. The difference between them is that probation signifies that a juvenile was adjudicated or found guilty of a crime. Supervision and probation can range in length from one to five years, depending on state law. Requirements of supervision and probation typically include regular visits with a probation officer, drug tests, community service, school attendance and fines. Failure to comply with court orders, known as probation violations, can result in further punishment.
- When a youth has not responded appropriately to community-based supervision programs, he may be referred to a residential treatment facility. This typically occurs after significant behavioral or other problems in the home and/or at school. Residential treatment can include a behavioral facility/group home, inpatient drug treatment program, inpatient mental health facility or a juvenile ranch or boot camp. Youth are typically ordered to complete these programs by a judge as a condition of probation. However, a minor can also be committed involuntarily to treatment by their parents if they meet the criteria for admission.
- The last resort for punishment of a juvenile is detention. Temporary detention facilities are usually run by the local jurisdiction and will detain minors for a few days or several months. Juveniles who have committed serious crimes, have repeated probation violations or have otherwise failed to abide by court orders can be referred to state-run juvenile facilities, which are long-term detention centers similar to prisons for adults. A juvenile can be sentenced to a full commitment in detention, which requires that they be detained until age 21, when they will ultimately age out of the juvenile justice system.