Juvenile Justice Jobs in the Penal System

The juvenile justice system focuses on rehabilitating the child.
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There is a general consensus that juvenile offenders should be treated differently from their adult counterparts. Proponents argue that the juvenile brain is not fully developed, which diminishes a juvenile's decision-making abilities. To address this, a separate division for juvenile justice has been established in the penal system. If you have an interest in criminal justice, combined with a belief that juvenile offenders can be rehabilitated, there are numerous employment opportunities for you in this industry. Women are increasingly employed in the penal justice system, as evidenced by Chicago's Cook County Jail, where a third of the corrections officers are women.

Juvenile Probation Officer

Judges often sentence juveniles to probation in lieu of incarceration. A juvenile probation officer is appointed to monitor the offender's behavior. The officer meets with the juvenile on a regular basis to ensure that her conditions of release are being followed and to prevent recidivism. As a juvenile probation officer, you will be in contact with the juvenile's parents through home visits and telephone calls. You will also write progress reports and present your findings to the judge when an offender is non-compliant. Juvenile probation officers should have a bachelor's degree in criminal justice or social work, which provides you with a general knowledge of the legal system. You should also have experience working with at-risk youth.

Juvenile Corrections Officer

Juvenile correction officers work in detention centers to ensure the safety and compliance of inmates. In this position, you complete intake procedures as new inmates arrive. You guide them through their daily schedules and might also be asked to serve meals. Officers search visitors before they enter the facility and stand guard during visitation hours. The job can be dangerous at times because you might need to physically subdue inmates when necessary. For this reason, female correction officers are usually assigned to female detention centers. Detention guards are required to have a high school diploma or GED. You might also be required to pass a fitness test and be CPR certified.

Juvenile Case Manager

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Case management has become an integral part of the juvenile justice system. As a case manager, you are assigned to an offender during her incarceration. You will research the inmate's background and document any medical needs and educational deficiencies. You will also speak with family members and coordinate counseling as needed. The case manager is concerned with moving the juvenile out of the penal system, which might require finding housing or vocational training for her. You might also work with the juvenile after her release to ensure a successful transition. Case managers typically have a bachelor's degree in social work, combined with at least a year of counseling experience.

Passing Judgment

In most state courts, juvenile cases are handled separately from adult cases. There is usually a specific judge assigned to hear these matters. As a juvenile court judge, juvenile criminal cases are forwarded to you for adjudication. In addition to hearing the evidence and making a determination on how defendants should be sentenced, you consult with counselors and social workers regarding the well-being of the defendant. Juvenile court judges have the authority to sentence offenders to incarceration. Judges can also order probation or have defendants participate in a diversionary program, where they must perform community service in order to avoid jail. Juvenile court judges must have a law degree and significant legal experience. They are typically appointed or elected to serve.

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