Graduate Student Tori Stuecklen Inspects the State of the Juvenile Justice System In Relation to Social Control for Class Research

Tori proposed an interesting study to examine the state of the juvenile justice system and how social control operates within the system. This research was conducted to form a groundwork for later examinations which she hopes to use in future research and practical applications, a preview of the study can be found in the abstract below.


“The juvenile justice system was originally created because of arguments that juveniles have not fully matured and that they need individualized treatment. The idea was to stop juveniles from ever coming into contact with the adult system and that the rehabilitation provided by this separate system would guide juveniles to eventually be productive members of society. However, with the “get tough on crime” era and rising juvenile offenses, more punitive measures started to be put in place. Today, the current system consists of both rehabilitation and punishment, with punishment on the rise. Rehabilitation and punishment are just two examples of social control mechanisms that are used to keep juveniles in line and maintain social order. Others include deterrence, meaning the prevention of crime before it takes place, and labeling, or ostracizing juveniles from the community when they commit some deviant act. While punishments are continuing to increase in response to the growth of juvenile offenses, the importance of informal social control is being overlooked. Using theory of law as a framework, it is clear that juveniles would not come into contact with the law as frequently if informal social control mechanisms were strengthened. Neighborhoods with high levels of social disorganization lack the collective efficacy and social bonds necessary to prevent juveniles from deviating, thus making contact with law enforcement and the juvenile justice system more frequent. Therefore, to deal with the rise in juvenile offenses, policy makers need to shift their focus away from increasing punishment and towards improving neighborhoods and social capital. Although the focus should be strengthening informal social control, juveniles will inevitably come into contact with the law. When this occurs, the juvenile justice system needs to prioritize its original goal: rehabilitating juveniles. Otherwise, a separate system is meaningless and strong arguments can be made for a unified system.”