The Effect of Criminal Justice System on Youth Offenders


Many studies have come out with varying findings, statistics, and opinions regarding the impacts of the criminal justice system on youth offenders, and criminology dissertation help. These impacts range from the positive to the negative, and how they can shape the crime rates among youth offenders. Therefore, this extended essay dissertation will focus on the specific effect that dictates the effectiveness of the criminal justice system as regards facilitating rehabilitation or reduction of crime or simply change of behaviour, positively, among youth, based on past experiences of others as regards sentencing in the event that they become offenders. Therefore, the main aim of this systematic review is to answer the following questions:


Are tougher sentences working?

To what extent are these tougher sentences facilitating rehabilitation among youth offenders, and thus reduction in offences by the youth?

To what extent are these tougher sentences contributing positively, towards crime reduction among the youth?

The intention is to establish whether or not that these sentences are effectively serving and meeting their purpose and goals respectively. Given the fact that accessing information from these offenders might be challenging and time consuming, and that is likely to meet barriers in the face of law, an extended essay dissertation, by systematically reviewing literature of past studies is appropriate at this stage. These literature sources will provide the various themes that surround the functioning of sentences and how these have impacted youth offenders and have served as good examples and thus to curb such offences by youth.

Given the above, this introduction will cover the background on the topic including describing the criminal justice system, and discussing the various policies in place that impact the way sentences are given, and finally describe what a “tougher” sentence is. Furthermore, the introduction will also give the aims and research questions of this dissertation. Lastly, this chapter will also provide an overview of the dissertation to give a glimpse of what will be covered in it and at what stage. The aims are as follows:

To establish the impact of the criminal justice system on youth offenders

To evaluate the various types (in terms of punishment severity) of sentences for youth offenders

To establish whether tougher sentences for youth offenders are working effectively;

To control the offenders’ behaviours in terms of positive change

To serve as good examples of discouraging crimes/offences committed by youth

To reverse the rate of offences committed by youth

The aim number three together with its three sub-aims will effectively answer the three research questions introduced earlier in this introduction. It should be noted that these are important topics to focus on while developing this extended essay dissertation, for the topic to be effectively covered and all research questions answered. These will shed more light and give insights into how the criminal justice system impact the youth offenders, and furthermore how the flaws in the system can be rectified to ensure that the system works effectively in controlling the crime rates among the youth.

Given the above, it is important to also note the importance of using the most appropriate and relevant sources of literature while developing the major discussion of this extended essay dissertation. Thus, the introduction should clearly state what to and not to be considered and covered in this dissertation, to make it clear of the focus of the essay. Thus, this section will describe the detailed research process of identifying and reviewing the selected literature sources. A total of 7 peer-reviewed research journal articles are recommended to be considered for a 1000-words text in the main body (discussion section) of this extended essay dissertation. The following process can be considered when searching for materials/sources to use in the main discussion section of this essay:

Searching various databases to provide the required reference materials. These databases include EBSCOhost, ProQuest (Criminal Justice Database), JSTOR, and DOAJ among others.

The search can utilize keywords as the search strategy, and a search table can be maintained to record the number of hits before and after inclusion and exclusion criteria is set, for purposes of retrieving the relevant articles after the search process is completed. The keywords will include “Youth offenders,” “Tougher Sentences,” “Impact,” and “Criminal Justice System.” These will be used together with Boolean operators “OR,” “AND,” “AND/OR.” This is for the purposes of identifying the most appropriate literature and general sources to use.

The limits applied to the search will include the following inclusion and exclusion criteria;

Inclusion Criteria: For journal articles, not older than 10 years and peer reviewed, and strictly covering the youth as the main subject as well as have used primary research. Other documents and materials relevant to this dissertation can be searched from Google Scholar using the keywords identified above.

Furthermore, further limits will include only journals in the English language.

Exclusion Criteria: Older than 10 years (only for journal articles), and not in the English language.

After applying the inclusion and exclusion criteria, study selection must be conducted on the basis of which study is most appropriate and relevant for this essay. The selection will be guided by the main research questions and aims of this essay. Furthermore, it is important to consider highly-reputable journal articles, especially those that lack bias in their methodology and data collection process, a quality assessment that will ensure that this essay’s main discussion is based on accurate and correct as well as unbiased data.

The Development of the Core of the Extended Essay Dissertation

This section of the essay will focus on reviewing literature sources including peer-reviewed journals, books, prison documents, criminal justice system documents, and other relevant material on the topic. The focus of this review will be to bring out the research gaps connected to the major aims of this dissertation. Also, this section will be keen to establish, across the entire literature sources reviewed, and pin point the various research areas, within the topic, that have been left out by or are limited in terms of the available and reviewed literature. This is crucial in efforts to justify the need for this extended essay dissertation.

The themes to consider in this section will include the following:

Youth offenders and the criminal justice system impacts

The juvenile justice system was created to serve the best interests of young people. This was based on the fact that the youth had different needs compared to adults. Richards (2011), reveal that, historically, young people in the criminal justice proceedings were treated just like adults and were subject to similar criminal justice processes as adults. Besides, up to the early twentieth century, most parts of the world subjected young people to penalties identical to adults, including corporal punishments and hard labor. However, today, perceptions of crime and punishment have taken on increasing importance while countries try to address youth violence (Barretto et al., 2018).

Evidence has suggested that the intervention of criminal justice is very beneficial to youths. The youth criminal justice system has dramatically reduced recidivism (Howell et al., 2014). This reduction is an indication that criminal justice is significantly rehabilitation the youth hence changing their lives. Most useful programs have also reduced rearrests rates by more than 40 percent, which suggests that the youth have the opportunity to participate in other things other than crimes. Howell et al. (2014), reveal that juvenile justice programs are remarkably good investments whose significance greatly exceed their costs. Furthermore, criminal justice has also been shown to reduce both offending and reoffending hence making a significant difference to the youth in the society (McGuire, 2013). It has created diversion diversions from crimes as well as youth crime victims' post-traumatic stress symptoms. The study also suggests that it reduces crime victims' desire for violent revenge against their offenders hence positively impacting youth lives.

However, contrasting evidence reveals that youth who undergo through the juvenile justice system mostly have challenges while transitioning into adulthood (Jannetta & Okeke, 2017). The study also indicates that youth need to develop social competence, a sense of self-direction; on the contrary, the juvenile system exposes young people to negative influences that enslave their development. It also interferes with both the development of youths, and desistance. (Jannetta & Okeke, 2017) suggest that mounting evidence shows that the justice system involvement increases the chances of further crime involvement. This happens because of the impact of labeling youth as “criminals;” interrupt connections to family, school, and work. As a result of the victimization, stress, and exposure to trauma undermine healthy childhood development and adult decision making.

This section will present points of arguments, both in favour and against the impact of the criminal justice system on youth offenders. The aim here will be to set the discussion from the point of view of how the criminal justice system is set as far as prosecuting youth criminal offenders is concerned.

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What is a tougher sentence for a youth offender?

Studies indicate that some of the harsh sentences for youth offenders include death sentence, life imprisonment, and hard labor (Chung, 2015). A survey by Lotti (2020) reveals that harsh punishment for young people might create an adverse effect on incarcerated offenders. As a result, the likelihood of future criminal activity is increased. In contrast to the idea of harsh criminal justice and sentencing, studies indicate that punishment is always created for various reasons. Suffering punishment will deter an offender from reoffending (Banks, 2013). Therefore, the research demonstrates that no sentence is severe, and all criminals deserve to be punished, and individuals should be aware that consequences follow all crimes. Moreover, the study reveals that punishment tells the victim that society disapproves of the harm that an individual has suffered. Besides, tough punishment discourages other youths from offending and protects the community from dangerous people. Similarly, the study shows that whether tough or not, punishment ensures that people understand that laws are supposed to be obeyed.

This section will aim to review literature in an attempt to define a sentence. Various literature, including case laws, will be consulted to provide the correct argument and thus set the appropriate definition of what a tougher sentence is. This implies that different arguments will be weighed to come up with the most common meaning of what a tougher sentence is.

The impact of tougher sentences on youth offenders

Scholars show that harsh sentencing reform offenders. Besides, harsh sentencing reduces the rate of reoffending hence creating a positive impact on an individual (Harty, 2012). However, other contrasting research indicates that, globally, harsh punitive approaches often seem to be an easy solution to solving violent crimes (Huttunen et al., 2014). However, other studies have suggested that most juvenile criminals who are sentenced for a long time came out worse and more likely to offend than before. Prison makes them hardcore; hence it is not the answer to young people's crimes. Moreover, imprisonment has been revealed to increase aggression, thus making the youth more prone to repeat offenses (Skiba, 2014). The research indicates that prison environments are filled with aggressive behaviors; therefore, individuals learn to be offensive by watching others acting aggressively. Thus, behavior modification takes place. The modified behavior is applied outside the environment hence making the juvenile system a failure (Leiber & Rodriguez, 2011). The study also reveals that increasing the punishments doesn’t decrease the crime. Harsh punishment only impacts youth development.

This section will review literature on the various effects tougher sentences have on youth offenders. This will answer the question of whether or not these effects are adverse. However, the aim is also to see where literature is limited regarding this aspect of the impact of the criminal justice system on youth offenders.

The impact of tougher sentences on the rate of offences committed by youth

As suggested, severe sentencing and more powerful deterrent punishment have reduced the rate of crime globally. However, other studies veal that harsh sentencing is not effective in reducing crime (Redding & Hensl, 2011). Criminological literature discovered that harsher sentencing does not reduce crime regardless of being an effective way of being a general deterrence (Redding & Hensl, 2011). Another study by Mauer (2018) shows that irrespective of the current youth incarceration in recent days, studies by the National Research Council reveal that, between 1980 and 2010, there were no changes in crime rates. This is an indication that harsh sentencing has minimal impact on crime rates.

This is important to this dissertation because it will review and analyse what literature exists as regards the ripple effects of tougher sentencing on the rate of crime in general, as far as the potential youth offenders are concerned. This will establish the effectiveness of these sentences in that if they were effective, then various case studies of tougher sentences would have discouraged potential offenders from committing crime. This section will draw from a wider literature on the general influences, on behaviour of youth, either directly or indirectly as a result of a tougher sentence. This review will set a base for the systematic review to follow, on the various impacts of tougher sentences on youth offenders, and whether or not these are working.

While doing this review, it is important to also note the various examples and demonstrations or rather case studies on how these tougher sentences have worked before. This will be appropriate for establishing the reality of the criminal justice system impacts on youth offenders. Furthermore, these examples or case studies should not just be local, but also regional as well as international in order to provide a basis for comparison, which further enables the judgement of what works and what does not, and under what circumstances.

For this essay to extensively cover the topic and clearly bring out the answers to the research questions, systematic literature review techniques (like thematic analysis, which is the most appropriate for this case) should be used to extract both qualitative and quantitative data, and these themes will be formed out of the research questions and aims of this study. These themes will be discussed based on the level of appearance in each article, and the most common identified to give the correct research findings to support any arguments by various researchers on the topic. These findings will be both qualitative and quantitative and should be analysed under different thematic areas as will be developed in the core section of the extended essay dissertation. It will also be important to bring out the overlapping themes as well as those themes that appear to not agree with others among the various studies selected and used within the essay. That is, points of similarities and differences will be identified, which will further be linked to literature as far as thematic analysis is concerned. The central focus at this point will be using the various selected studies, which are the most relevant to the topic in question, to answer the research questions, and in a manner that is satisfactory. Thus, this section, as discussed above, will constitute the discussions of the various themes extracted from different literature sources, which are in a significant way, linked to the main dissertation topic.


This section links the research aims and questions to the discussion within the core area/main body of the extended essay dissertation, and thus come up with appropriate conclusions regarding the research questions. Furthermore, areas of future research will be identified here.


Banks, C., 2013. The purpose of criminal punishment. Criminal Justice Ethics: Theory and Practice (3 ed., pp. 114–134). Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications.

Barretto, C., Miers, S. and Lambie, I., 2018. The views of the public on youth offenders and the New Zealand criminal justice system. International journal of offender therapy and comparative criminology, 62(1), pp.129-149.

Chung, J.J., 2015. Legislative Impact, Political Change, and Juvenile Detention. Juvenile Justice in Global Perspective, 1, p.370.

Harty, C.M., 2012. The Causes and Effects of Get Tough: A Look at How Tough-on-Crime Policies Rose to the Agenda and an Examination of Their Effects on Prison Populations and Crime.

Howell, J.C., Lipsey, M.W. and Wilson, J.J., 2014. A handbook for evidence-based juvenile justice systems. Lexington Books.

Huttunen, K., Pekkala Kerr, S. and Mälkönen, V., 2014. The Effect of Rehabilitative Punishments on Juvenile Crime and Labor Market Outcomes.

Jannetta, J. and Okeke, C., 2017. Strategies for Reducing Criminal and Juvenile Justice Involvement. Building Ladders of Opportunity for Young People in the Great Lakes States, brief, 4.

Leiber, M. and Rodriguez, N., 2011. The implementation of the disproportionate minority confinement/contact (DMC) mandate: A failure or success? Race and Justice, 1(1), pp.103-124.

Lotti, G., 2020. Tough on young offenders: harmful or helpful? Journal of Human Resources, pp.1017-9113R3.

Mauer, M., 2018. Long-Term Sentences: Time to Reconsider the Scale of Punishment. UMKC L. Rev., 87, p.113.

McGuire, J., 2013. What Works’ to Reduce Re-Offending. What works in offender rehabilitation: An evidence-based approach to assessment and treatment, pp.20-49.

Redding, R.E. and Hensl, K.B., 2011. Knowledgeable judges make a difference: Judicial beliefs affect juvenile court transfer decisions. Juvenile and Family Court Journal, 62(3), pp.15-24.

Richards, K., 2011. What makes juvenile offenders different from adult offenders? Trends and issues in crime and criminal justice, (409), p.1.

Skiba, R.J., 2014. The failure of zero tolerance. Reclaiming children and youth, 22(4), p.27.

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