Role of the Juvenile Justice System
One of the key functions of the criminal justice system is to enforce the court’s sentence when an individual is convicted of a crime. Juvenile justice refers to the branch of the criminal justice system that deals specifically with youthful offenders. The primary goal of juvenile justice is to help prevent juveniles from committing future crimes. Because of this emphasis on deterrence rather than punishment, the juvenile justice system operates differently from the adult justice system.
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Careers in the Juvenile Justice System
There are a wide range of career choices available within the juvenile justice system. If you’re interested in working in a corrections setting, you may consider becoming a juvenile detention officer, working in a juvenile boot camp, or becoming a probation and parole officer. Arbitrators and mediators act as liaisons between the court and the juvenile offender to try to work toward an alternative to incarceration in certain cases. Juvenile court administrators assist with case management while juvenile court officers are responsible for evaluating each offender to determine how his or her case should be handled. The juvenile justice system also utilizes youth counselors and social workers to assist in the rehabilitation process. Victim advocates work with victims of juvenile crimes to provide emotional support, offer assistance in navigating the justice system, and provide referrals to counseling or other assistance if necessary.
Earning a Degree in Juvenile Justice
The type of degree you’ll need to work in the juvenile justice system ultimately depends on what area you’re most interested in and where you live. For example, some states may only require a high school diploma to work as a juvenile corrections officer while others may expect you to have a two- or four-year degree. If you’re planning on working as a counselor or social worker, you may also need to become certified to do so. Victim advocates, arbitrators, and mediators are also required to complete specialized job training.
There are a number of colleges and universities that offer bachelor’s degree programs in juvenile justice as well as graduate programs at both the master’s and doctoral level. At the undergraduate level, you’ll have the opportunity to take a wide range of courses, such as criminal law, criminal justice theory, police methods, criminal investigations, juvenile corrections, criminal procedure, family law, and victimology. Pursuing an advanced degree allows you to focus on a specific aspect of the juvenile justice system and it also gives you the opportunity to conduct your own independent research.