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The debate over youth misbehaving and violation of the law has been in existance for several decades now. While others feel that the disciple imposed on youths is more than they can tolerate, others feel that punishment is meant to correct therefore they should be punished thoroughly for them to become resourceful in the society. Different acts on juvenile correction have however been established so to give some guidelines on how the correction measures should be carried out depending on the crime and the age of the individual. This paper is meant to compare how the three different legislation relating to youth criminal justice - The Juvenile Delinquency Act, The Young Offenders Act and The Youth Criminal Justice Act while highlighting their similarities and differences in relation to how they would deal with a juvenile case, using the movie 'Sleepers' as a referencing scenario.
The movie 'Sleepers' describes the live f four boys who are taken to a correction center after they get involved with a situation that almost killed a man. The four boys; Lorenzo, John, Michael, Thomas are childhood friends who are brought up together in the 1960's, a time when Father Bobby, the local priest keeps a closer watch on their lives. However, they get involved in running small businesses for a local gangster and at some point; the four almost kill a man in 1967. Consequently, they are taken to Wilkinson Home for Boys, where they are sentenced to serve term. While in the boys' home, the boys are beaten and abused by the guards. After their term is over, they are released; Thomas and John kill a man. Their case is assigned to Michael whose plan is to take vengeance on the guards. They win the case and the movie ends with their deaths shortly after they are discharged.
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Using this scenario, the Juvenile Delinquency Act, The Young Offenders Act and The Youth Criminal Justice Act would have dealt with it differently. To begin with the Juvenile Delinquency Act would have treated these four boys as delinquents and not criminals. This is because the Act was passed so as to reform and rehabilitate the youth and not to punish them. Philosophically, Juvenile Delinquency Act, unlike The Young Offenders Act and The Youth Criminal Justice required that youths be judged as people who have committed delinquencies and should be dealt with not as offenders but as people who have fallen in delinquency condition due to abuses, poverty and/ or neglected by their parents thus they require help, supervision and guidance for them to be reaccepted in the society.
Determination of whether a youth had committed delinquency or not was made casually even without due process. Sentencing options that were availed for this Act included; adjournment sine die, suspension of disposition, fines, probation, undefined interment to training school, and assignment to Children's Aid Society. Sentences depended on the judges' approval; for instance, one would be assigned to a training school for an undecided period of time as long as the judge felt it necessary for the youth's reform. Regarding age, Juvenile Delinquency Act handles cases of youth between 12 and 16 and the sentences given are not very harsh. The youths are left in the custody of the government through the correction centers where they are counseled. This act would therefore have treated the four boys like delinquencies and not as criminals thus they would have been put in custody for rehabilitation and not punishment.
The Young Offenders Act on the other hand declares that young people are responsible for the penalties of their behavior. With this Act, the criminal offences for the youths are same as those for the adults where provincial crimes are solved under the legislations provided for the provincial offences. Most of the procedures and evidence laws are same as those used when dealing with cases concerning adults and sentences for the youths must correspond with the crime as it is the case with the adults. The Young Offenders Act, like the Juvenile Delinquency Act, handles cases for youths between the age of 12 and 16. However, they are sentenced just like adults and are put under the custody of jails to serve their sentence terms. This Act would therefore have treated the boys on the scenario narrated in the movie like adults. They would have been rendered responsible for their action and would have been sentenced in accordance with the crime.
The Youth Criminal Justice Act that is only applicable to youths between the age of 12 and 18 who have allegedly committed a crime. The act establishes a separate system for criminal justice that is different from the code of criminal. Philosophically, the Act puts emphasis on reintegration and rehabilitation, proportionate and fair accountability, enhances bureaucratic protection and appropriate enforcement and intervention. Under this Act, youths are given a chance to participate in the process of decision making before persecution, the victims are handle d with compassion, respect and courtesy for their privacy and dignity. The victims are also allowed to contribute in the proceedings while parents are expected to support them when addressing their offence. The age for youths that are handled by this Act is between 12 and 18 i.e. any person above the age of 12 but should be below 18. Victims in this Act can be sentenced to custody if they have committed an offence or when they fail to comply with non-custodial. Concerning the above discussed scenario, The Youth Criminal Justice Act would have given the four youths an opportunity to participate in the process of decision making before they are persecuted. They would have been handled with compassion, respect and care.
The above scenario would however have been dealt with differently under the restorative justice system and the retributive system. While the restorative system defines a crime as a violation of another person's rights by the other, a retributive justice system defines it as a violation of the state's law. While the retributive justice system focuses on punishing the crime since it seeks to establish blames on the victim, the restorative justice system is determined at solving problems particularly on the liabilities by repairing the injuries caused by the criminal.
Concerning the scenario in the movie sleepers, restorative justice system would have treated the four boys as individuals who have violated the rights of another person by attempting to kill him. Therefore the case would have been dealt with by first settling the liabilities caused by the boys and later they would have been given an opportunity to dialogue and reconcile with this man as a means of restoring their relationship and the injured society as well. Retributive justice on the other hand would have dealt with the four boys by first placing blame on them then punished them for having violated the laws of the state. This case would be appropriately dealt with by the restorative justice because the boys were still young and knew nothing about the law of the state, however, they knew that it was wrong to cause harm to another person thus stheir act was a violation of another person's right.
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Unlike other countries, Canada has a unique way of dealing with criminals probably due to the fact that the country is on the campaigns against violence. The country is very strict and has imposed very harsh conditions on sentencing. For instance, youths who are found guilty under the Canada criminal code are subject to a penalty sentence which corresponds to the crime committed. Before a sentence is settled on, the court considers mitigating factors such demonstrated remorse, a guilty plea, extent of violence or damage evidence of good character, restitution, impact on the victim as well as infuriating factors such as past criminal records, proof of planning, or loss and group participation. Statistic shows that for every 100, 000 youths between 12 and 17, 1050 of them are in custody due to crime and violence in Canada.
As a fourth estate that brings the public sphere together, the media plays a vital role on how we deal with cases involving the young people. For instance, information on how a case was treated in another country is made available in al other country and as a result, authorities emulate each others system of dealing with the cases thus resulting to the implementation of similar sentencing for crimes committed in different countries. This has brought about harmony in most of the court systems around the world.
In conclusion, the violation of law by youths is as old as history. In order to prevent and minimize the incidents in which the youths get involved with violence and crime, several governments have established Acts that help the criminal justice in dealing with youth criminals. Some of the implemented Acts include; the Juvenile Delinquency Act, The Young Offenders Act and The Youth Criminal Justice Act. These Acts succeed each other n that order with the newer ones being established so as to improve the older ones. Nevertheless, these Acts have got some differences as well as some similarities on how they handle juvenile cases. Their major similarity is that they handle cases of youths above 12 years and below 18 years. Restorative system defines a crime as a violation of another person's rights by the other while a retributive justice system defines it as a violation of the state's law. These two treat crime differently since one seeks to reconcile and the other seeks to blame the criminals.