January 21, 2020
Understanding Pennsylvania’s Juvenile Justice System
According to the Family Involvement Committee of the Pennsylvania Council of Chief Juvenile Probation Officers, state lawmakers re-defined the juvenile justice system in 1995 to reflect the principles of Balanced and Restorative Justice. The philosophy focuses on the goals of:
- Community Protection – While the justice system strives to help the child, the safety of the community must also be a priority.
- Accountability – The child must take responsibility for the harm caused.
- Competency Development – Once the child leaves the juvenile justice system, he or she should be capable of living productively in the community.
What does this mean for your child?
If you receive a call that your child has been arrested, you’ll be shocked and filled with disbelief. But being there for your child is of the utmost importance. To be an advocate and support your child, you’ll want to:
- Attend meetings and hearings. In some counties, your presence at court hearings may be required. It’s also important you are in the know of what is happening in your child’s case.
- Be an active participant. Don’t be afraid to offer information about your child’s needs. In the court process, you may also be asked to provide information or to write letters to the judge if you have concerns. You should tell your child’s probation officer you want to be included in all meetings and decisions.
- Build respectful relationships with those involved in your child’s case. Communication is key. You’ll want to be respectful and calm, and be sure to ask questions if you have concerns. By building mutual respect, you’ll be better able to communicate that you are concerned for the welfare of your child, and you want the best for him or her.
- Be organized. Have a handle on your child’s case. Keep all documents, notes, and related information in one place to ensure you are prepared for anything asked of you.
What if the charges go to adult court?
Juvenile offenders who require supervision are those between the ages of 10 and 18 years old and may continue until the person is 21 years old. However, if the individual commits murder, they will be charged as an adult. There are other exceptions.
From the Sentinel series, “Kids in Cuffs: Hundreds of youths charged as adults in Pennsylvania every year,” it is reported that in 2017, more than 400 children ages 14 to 17 in Pennsylvania were charged with criminal offenses in adult court. Why? In Pennsylvania, Act 33 “requires people between the ages of 15 and 17 charged with certain felonies — like robbery or aggravated assault — to be charged in adult court if they meet certain requirements, such as the use of a weapon during the alleged crime.”
How can you protect your child?
We recommend that if your child is being accused of a crime, hire an attorney who can help you wade through the juvenile system.
If you or your child is accused of a crime, call a law firm that understands the juvenile justice system in Lackawanna County and other neighboring counties in Northeastern Pennsylvania.