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Judging Children As Children

Judging Children As Children: A Proposal for a Juvenile Justice System

Michael A. Corriero
Copyright Date: 2006
Published by: Temple University Press
Pages: 232
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  • Book Info
    Judging Children As Children
    Book Description:

    At a time when America's court system increasingly tries juvenile offenders as adults, Michael Corriero draws directly from his experience as the founding judge of a special juvenile court to propose a new approach to dealing with youthful offenders.

    Since 1992, Judge Corriero has presided over the Manhattan Youth Part, a New York City court specifically designed to discipline teenage offenders. Its guiding principles, clearly laid out in this book, are that children are developmentally different from adults and that a judge can be a formidable force in shaping the lives of children who appear in court.

    Judging Children as Childrenmakes a compelling argument for a better system of justice that recognizes the mental, emotional, and physical abilities of young people and provides them with an opportunity to be rehabilitated as productive members of society instead of being locked up in prisons.

    eISBN: 978-1-59213-784-8
    Subjects: Law, Sociology, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-IV)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. V-VI)
  3. Preface
    (pp. VII-VIII)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. IX-XII)
  5. Prologue
    (pp. XIII-XX)

    AS A TEENAGER growing up in Manhattan’s Little Italy in the 1950s, I saw how easily a careless choice could draw one into a situation that carried “the appearance of a culpability not necessarily justified by the true facts.”¹ Perceptions of such a childhood, to those who have not had a similar experience, may be shaped by films such asMean StreetsorA Bronx Tale. To be sure, as children we encountered many crossroads, pinpoints in time where a step to the right could lead to accomplishment and honor, a step to the left trouble and tragedy. But I...

  6. CHAPTER 1 The Proposition
    (pp. 1-19)

    LORETTA, a 14-year-old African-American girl, was traveling to school on the subway one morning with a classmate. Sitting across from them was another student also on her way to school. The student was wearing an attractive pair of gold earrings. Loretta’s classmate, who was 15 years old, bigger than Loretta, and with a reputation as a bully, noticed the earrings and decided that she was going to have them. She stood up and walked over to the girl. Loretta followed. “Give me your earrings,” she demanded. The student ignored her. She repeated the demand. The student tried to move away...

  7. CHAPTER 2 The Nature of Adolescence
    (pp. 20-34)

    HOW MANY OF YOU have ever been fourteen? Let me see a show of hands.” That is how I often facetiously begin a discussion with mature audiences on the relationship of adolescence to juvenile crime. The serious point of the question is to emphasize that offending and nonoffending teenagers, as well as adults, share at least one thing in common: the adolescent experience. Evoking the memory of our own adolescence is crucial to understanding the issues involved in judging the culpability of juveniles who commit crimes and determining the appropriate societal response to their behavior. The first step in capturing...

  8. CHAPTER 3 The Criminal Responsibility of Juveniles
    (pp. 35-45)

    BEFORE WE DISCUSS a juvenile sentencing policy that reflects the impact of adolescence on the prevalent social contexts within which juvenile offending frequently occurs, we must first consider the rationale for holding adolescents criminally responsible. In most states, in order to be criminally responsible, a juvenile/adolescent must reach a threshold age. The age of criminal responsibility varies from state to state. In New York it is as low as 13 for murder, 14 for other serious crimes. In Oklahoma, a child of 7 can be held criminally responsible provided the state can prove that, at the time of the act,...

  9. CHAPTER 4 Sentencing Children Tried in Adult Courts
    (pp. 46-63)

    IN NEW YORK, virtually all children sentenced as juvenile offenders in the adult court, with the exception of those convicted of murder, will return to society by the age of 21.¹ The pragmatic realization that children convicted of serious crimes in the adult court will return to society as relatively young men and women lends powerful support to the goal of rehabilitation as the dominant rationale for juvenile sentences. For example, had I decided to deny Loretta youthful offender treatment and sentence her to the maximum term permissible for the crime of Robbery in the second degree under the Juvenile...

  10. CHAPTER 5 Our Hardest-to-Love Children
    (pp. 64-77)

    THANK YOU for helping us to better understand our hardest to love children.” Those words were handwritten at the bottom of a letter I received after making a presentation to New York’s Citizen’s Committee for Children. Who are these children? What are they capable of? What challenges do they present?

    Two boys, one 15, the other 18, startled a 31-year-old nurse’s aide returning home from work one dark evening. The boys stepped from the shadows as the woman turned a corner a few blocks from her home. Surprised, she acknowledged the boys with a smile. “Where are you going, bitch?”...

  11. CHAPTER 6 Interactive Justice
    (pp. 78-91)

    SOME TIME AGO, I began noticing more and more young people appearing in my courtroom with headphones around their necks. Rap or hip-hop dominates the music industry today as opposed to the rock-and-roll of my generation. My own experience with this music was limited to chance encounters while I found myself stopped at a red light. Suddenly my car would start to vibrate from the loud pulsating sounds coming from a vehicle that pulled up next to me. Curious about the music and its influence, I sought out my nephew, Billy Grant, a precocious and musically talented young man. He...

  12. CHAPTER 7 Fridays in the Youth Part How the Judicial Interactive Process Works
    (pp. 92-126)
    Caroline Joy DeBrovner

    IN THE FALL of 2000, I brought my Juvenile Delinquency class to observe the Youth Part.¹ Immediately, I was profoundly moved by what I saw as Judge Corriero’s approach in dealing with this youth population that has been so often demonized by the media and politicians. The social scientist in me was inspired to learn and understand more. I was curious about the interaction between the judge and his defendants, as well as his courtroom at large. I have spent nearly four years attending Judge Corriero’s Friday calendar and developing an understanding of his methods and philosophy of dealing with...

  13. CHAPTER 8 The Experiment that Failed
    (pp. 127-143)

    AT THE HEART of my issue with the Juvenile Offender Law and similar laws across the nation that facilitate the prosecution of children in adult courts is their disregard of American conceptions of the value and place of children in our society, as well as their disregard of the scholarly research of behavioral scientists establishing the developmental differences and needs of children. Our nation’s juvenile justice system was based on the premise that juveniles can and should be rehabilitated. Indeed, the cornerstone of this movement was that it is in the best interests of both juveniles and society that young...

  14. CHAPTER 9 Creation of the Youth Part
    (pp. 144-152)

    THE ESTABLISHMENT of Manhattan’s Youth Part was as much a political process as it was a legal one. Policy makers within the executive and judicial branches, as well as within the legal community, had to be persuaded of its value. The idea of a special court for youth tried in adult courts was not novel. Special courts for young offenders above the age limit for juvenile court jurisdiction were established as early as 1914 in Chicago and 1915 in Philadelphia.² In New York, the Wayward Minors Act of 1923 provided for special treatment for offenders between the ages of 16...

  15. CHAPTER 10 The Youth Part Model
    (pp. 153-163)

    THE NEED FOR YOUTH PARTS in jurisdictions that prosecute children as adults is evident when we recognize the significant growth in the number of juveniles subject to the jurisdiction of adult courts. “Between 1992 and 1999, all but six states expanded their statutory provisions for transferring juveniles to criminal court, making it easier for more juveniles to be transferred. For example, states have added statutory exclusions, expanded the list of offenses eligible for transfer, and/or lowered the minimum age at which a juvenile may be transferred under one or more mechanisms.”² The National Center for Juvenile Justice estimated that “in...

  16. CHAPTER 11 A Model Juvenile Justice System
    (pp. 164-178)

    IN THIS CHAPTER, I present my proposals for a model juvenile justice system, one that recognizes children as children, tries them as children, and sentences them as such. In describing my proposal as a model “juvenile justice system,” I do so in a broad sense that encompasses not only the juvenile courts but also adult criminal courts that are prosecuting children as adults. The model I offer serves to identify more precisely dangerous, violent, and chronic juvenile offenders, but it is also one that permits appropriate judicial responsiveness to the developmental needs of young offenders, providing suitable offenders with the...

  17. CHAPTER 12 Juvenile Justice Policy Reform
    (pp. 179-183)

    AN UNPRECEDENTED coalition of advocacy groups composed of physicians, behavioral scientists, child advocates, and lawyers came together to successfully challenge the juvenile death penalty statutes.¹ The same evidence that renders juveniles less culpable than adults in determining whether they can be constitutionally executed suggests as well that the majority of juveniles should not be tried as adults. Mobilization of a similar coalition could be effective in reversing the policy of trying children as adults.

    America has a significant number of philanthropic foundations dedicated to improving the lives of children. These foundations have been instrumental in educating the public and providing...

  18. Notes
    (pp. 184-204)
  19. Index
    (pp. 205-212)