If you’re one of many Pennsylvania parents who received a call from police, informing you that your son or daughter has been arrested, you may also be a parent who feels anxious and worried about the immediate (and, possibly, long-term) future. While you might be upset or angry with your child, especially if you know that he or she was drinking underage or dabbling in drug activities, etc., it’s also understandable that you want to provide as much support as possible as your child navigates the juvenile justice system.
The juvenile justice system operates in several unique ways that are different from the adult criminal justice system. Understanding these differences ahead of time may increase the chances of a positive outcome when your son or daughter heads to court. The court understands that, as a parent, you will undoubtedly be a key advocate acting on behalf of your child as his or her case is adjudicated.
Rehabilitation versus punishment
One of the main differences between the juvenile and adult criminal justice systems is that the juvenile system centrally focuses on rehabilitation rather than punishment. If your child faces conviction of a crime, sentencing is likely to include community service and options that include family and community support as opposed to jail time.
This doesn’t mean that there is no chance of your son or daughter serving time in a detention center, only that the overall system typically steers toward rehabilitative consequences under conviction of a crime rather than jail sentences that separate a juvenile from his or her family and community.
Juveniles are held accountable when convicted of crimes
If a judge in a juvenile criminal court hands down a conviction against your child, he or she must be accountable, especially if another person suffered damages because of his or her actions. The term “restorative justice” means that justice is served by holding a juvenile accountable and by providing resources and sentencing options that help a young person develop the skills that are needed to become a productive member of his or her community.
Getting back on track through the juvenile justice system
Your son or daughter may have shown poor judgment in a specific set of circumstances that led to an arrest and criminal charges. The Pennsylvania juvenile justice system focuses on helping minors avoid the adult penal system because many teens who become involved in crime wind up continuing such habits as adults.
As you help your child navigate the juvenile justice system, you may take comfort in knowing that the court wants your child to be able to continue his or her education and to make amends for his or her actions, if necessary, while learning to make better choices in life and getting things back on track to avoid additional legal problems in the future. As a parent, you may tap into local resources at any time so that your child has a strong team of support right from the start.