If rehabilitation is the founding mission of the juvenile justice system, then should not the protection of juvenile records be the most essential task? The lack of record protection makes juveniles likely to recidivate, as well as experience difficulties with education and employment. While the likelihood of juveniles being given a chance at true rehabilitation is slim, there are implications that can directly address the issue.
Rehabilitation needs to be the primary focus because juveniles do not have the luxury of choosing the environment they are born in. So, there should be no comparison of juvenile delinquency to adult criminal court records.
Additionally, it is vital for records to not be easily accessible on the internet and the public should not have access to the courtroom or sealed records. All juveniles deserve a fair chance to change their life. So, a cost-free record protection process would guarantee inclusivity, instead of adding to the overwhelmingly abundant inequities already present within the juvenile justice system. Similarly, all juveniles need to be informed about the process of sealing and expungement, not just a select few in favor of the privileged. All in favor of continuing to honor practicing inclusiveness? Aye. All youth, regardless of demographics, should be able to navigate this process independently, and there should be no limitation on which and when crimes can be expunged because that only encourages disparities. The most crucial step is to tell the juvenile when their records are eradicated electronically and physically, expeditiously.
If any individual or entity dares to blatantly obtain the audacity to ignore these rules, consequences should follow. As Theodore Roosevelt said, “No man is above the law and no man is below it.”
Marshae Batchelor, MSW Student at Temple University