1. To ensure that public safety is protected.
2. To rehabilitate the juvenile so that he or she can grow into a resourceful and productive person who will contribute positively to society.
3. To hold the juvenile accountable for his or her acts.
The Juvenile Bureau is responsible for investigating juvenile offenses, and for preparing and filing juvenile delinquency complaints with the Middlesex County Family Court. Many minor juvenile offenses can be resolved through a process known as a “station house adjustment”. Station house adjustments are used to resolve minor offenses when the juvenile has no record of prior acts of delinquency. The juvenile officer usually asks the juvenile, a parent or guardian, and the victim, to come to the station house to discuss the offense. The officer may refer a juvenile for needed services, and, if property has been stolen or damaged, ask the juvenile to make restitution in some form. Keep in mind that a victim can and may object to this form of punishment and request that the complaint be forwarded to the Family Court.
Many offenses committed by juveniles (i.e. running away from home, truancy or serious conflicts over issues of parental authority) are not considered delinquent acts at all. These acts are considered “juvenile-family” crises. Usually our Juvenile Bureau, the school administration, the Division Of Youth and Family Services (DYFS) and parents will meet with representatives of the Middlesex County Juvenile-Family Crisis Intervention Unit to deal with a juvenile’s problems. This is done within the context of the “whole family” since a juvenile’s behavior may often be a symptom of other problems within the family. If the crisis unit is unable to resolve the problem, then the Juvenile Bureau may petition for the court’s intervention. The priority of the SPD Juvenile Aid Bureau is to guide juveniles into becoming responsible and productive adults.
Another process used to resolve minor offenses is through the Juvenile Conference Committee. Juvenile Conference Committees are trained court volunteers who meet locally with the juvenile and his/her parents to address the offense and resolutions. These actions can range from writing a letter of apology to restitution or performing community service. If the juvenile does not attend the meeting, or does not carry out the requirements of the agreement the case will be returned to the court for a hearing before a judge.
If a juvenile’s offense is too serious for diversion, or if the juvenile’s prior record of delinquency rules out diversion, the case must be adjudicated. Adjudication is the process by which a judge decides whether a juvenile should be found to have committed a delinquent offense. Juveniles who are found to have committed an offense are not “convicted of a crime”; they are “adjudicated delinquent”. Juveniles do not have a right to a jury trial, a right to bail or a right to indictment.
Community involvement is often an essential part of a successful juvenile justice disposition. Often, one of the reasons a juvenile commits acts of juvenile delinquency is that there is no adequate network of care or supervision provided by the juvenile’s family. For juveniles who lack this care and supervision, it is sometimes possible to provide a substitute in the form of involvement in a church or community group, or through mentoring by community volunteers. Juveniles need the opportunity to develop the sense of self-esteem that is essential to becoming a responsible adult.