The question on how to treat juvenile offenders has always been a challenging one, with contradicting views on the right way of handling those coming into contact with the criminal justice system. The juvenile justice system has been formed from the viewpoint of rehabilitating the offenders to become productive members of the society (Ritter, 2010). The manner in which the juvenile delinquents are handled within the justice system can have a serious impact on their behavior and actions, both at the present and in the future. If not well addressed, the possibility of a snowball effect has been suggested. Hence, whether to punish or rehabilitate juvenile offenders has remained an interesting topic for research globally.
The recent years have witnessed an increase in the debate associated with the need to treat juvenile offenders like adult criminals, sentence them in the court of law, and imprison them just like adult offender (Noyori-Corbett and Moon, 2010). The argument has resulted from a reality that serious crimes, including homicide, being perpetuated by the juveniles have been on the increase. As a result, supporters of more serious sentencing and punishment for the juveniles are founded on the importance of dissuading criminal behavior among these members of the society. Therefore, this means that as long as they make the decision to commit crime, they should be prepared for the punishment. The theory behind punishment is founded on the cost-benefit analysis of an action. Hence, where the juveniles weigh the cost of committing a crime (punishment) against the benefits, then they will potentially stay away from crime (Ziedenberg, 2011). However, this is not always the case as punishment might have a worse impact on decision making in the young minds.
While the juveniles should be held accountable for the crime they commit, the protective aspect of dealing with this group of perpetrators should always be put into consideration. It is not only ethical, but also responsibility for the criminal justice and the society to protect the rights of the children (Siegel & Welsh, 2011). When juvenile delinquents come into contact with the criminal justice system, it should not be viewed as a chance to punish them for the crime they have committed, but the opportunity to correct them through rehabilitative efforts, giving them the chance to become better adults in the future (Huttunen & Kerr, 2014). Previous research has indicated the potential for the young people to age out of crime, which means that they have the potential to change their ways on achieving maturity. Research on the effectiveness of the rehabilitative programs through juvenile justice system is critical for decision-making relating to improvement of the juvenile programs. The society has a duty to offer younger generations a future, even where they begin on a rough path of delinquency.
Policy making is critical in making the juvenile justice system more effective to offer the critical rehabilitative services for the minors coming into contact with the criminal justice system. However, decision-making cannot be successful devoid of critical evidence from research. Provision of evidence for decision-making is the rationale for the research on the means of improving the juvenile correction system. Research will not only point to the importance of the system but also investigate the options available for the improvement of the system. While research has been carried out in the recent past, the reigning controversy between rehabilitation and punishment suggests the criticality of more investigation into the subject.