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Courting Kids

Courting Kids: Inside an Experimental Youth Court

Carla J. Barrett
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 220
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  • Book Info
    Courting Kids
    Book Description:

    Despite being labeled as adults, the approximately 200,000 youth under the age of 18 who are now prosecuted as adults each year in criminal court are still adolescents, and the contradiction of their legal labeling creates numerous problems and challenges. InCourting KidsCarla Barrett takes us behind the scenes of a unique judicial experiment called the Manhattan Youth Part, a specialized criminal court set aside for youth prosecuted as adults in New York City. Focusing on the lives of those coming through and working in the courtroom, Barrett's ethnography is a study of a microcosm that reflects the costs, challenges, and consequences the "tough on crime" age has had, especially for male youth of color. She demonstrates how the court, through creative use of judicial discretion and the cultivation of an innovative courtroom culture, developed a set of strategies for handling "adult-juvenile " cases that embraced, rather than denied, defendants' adolescence.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-6004-8
    Subjects: Law

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction: An Experiment in Youth Justice
    (pp. 1-20)

    Terell, a 15-year-old black Juvenile Offender, made his way hesitantly through the low gate in the courtroom when his name was called. Judge Michael Corriero looked over the notes in front of him. Terell had not been meeting the requirements of the alternative-to-incarceration (ATI) program to which the court had assigned him. The judge wasted no time getting to the point.

    “You need to cooperate with the project, you understand?” the judge said to Terell in a stern voice. “And you need to cooperate with school authorities. And his curfew will remain at 7 p.m.,” the judge added, his voice...

  5. CHAPTER ONE Calendar Days in the Youth Part: Mundanity and Drama
    (pp. 21-43)

    “Calendars days”—usually Fridays—were set aside in the Manhattan Youth Part for the routine processing of ongoing cases. Sometimes there were new cases on for the first time, but the majority of cases on a typical calendar day were on for “control dates” or “updates”—checking in on cases awaiting the slow progression of legal matters, or checking in with kids who had been assigned to alternative-to-incarceration (ATI) programs. Anywhere from fifteen to forty defendants would come before the court between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. on Friday. Other days of the week were reserved for trials, probation violation...

  6. CHAPTER TWO Creating the “Juvenile Offender”
    (pp. 44-60)

    New York’s 1978 Juvenile Offender Law was the first in the country that allowed criminal prosecution of youth under age 16 without juvenile court oversight. As such it represented a significant moment of rupture in the history of the American juvenile justice system.¹ Fox Butterfield, Pulitzer Prize – winning author ofAll God’s Children: The Bosket Family and the American Tradition of Violence,called the passage of the Juvenile Offender Law “a watershed in American juvenile justice policy.”² The law was a statutory exclusion law, requiring that qualifying cases be brought directly before the criminal courts, completely bypassing Family Court. Juvenile...

  7. CHAPTER THREE Rehabilitation, Youth Part Style
    (pp. 61-88)

    When his name was called in the Youth Part, Simon, a black youth, strode from the audience where he had been waiting with his aunt and took a seat next to his lawyer. He moved with the confidence of a seasoned veteran of the court. The judge announced that Simon was ready for sentence and asked him to stand up.

    “How long have you been with us, now?” Judge Corriero asked.

    “A long time,” Simon replied easily, looking up at the judge.

    “Since April, Your Honor,” offered Simon’s white female attorney.

    Simon had first come before the court eight months...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR Individualized Justice in a Criminal Court
    (pp. 89-129)

    One of the main tenets of the early juvenile justice movement was the emphasis on the need forindividualized justice—the idea that the punishments meted out or treatment and social welfare interventions prescribed for young offenders were to be based on the circumstances, history, and life conditions of each individual child. In contrast, criminal law had traditionally been more focused on the nature of the offense than the offender. Since the retributive turn and due-process revolution of the 1970s, the popularity of rehabilitation-based individualized responses to youth offending has waned considerably, even within the juvenile courts. In her juvenile...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE Managing Contradictions
    (pp. 130-151)

    The kids in the Manhattan Youth Part were teenagers and as such did not pay rent or have full-time jobs, and most were dependent upon parents or guardians for food, shelter, clothing, transportation, and the like. As non-adults, they were expected to live by their parents’ or guardians’ rules and attend school and were, in fact, much less autonomous social actors than adults.¹ This is a fundamental fact about the prosecution of youths as adults: young offenders don’t become older because they offend—they remain kids.² The simple legal denial of youthfulness, even when mandated by law, cannot erase the...

  10. CHAPTER SIX Judging the Court, Judging Transfer
    (pp. 152-166)

    My goal in this ethnography has been to document the law in action and shed light on how youths are constructed, or not constructed, as adults through the process of criminal prosecution. I tried to uncover how the criminal prosecution of adolescents was undertaken in one court in one jurisdiction and, in the process, discover what could be learned about trying youths as adults and about legal responses to adolescent transgression more generally. Invariably, whenever I discuss this research I am asked some version of the same basic question, though it is worded differently from person to person and place...

  11. Conclusion: Kids Will Be Kids
    (pp. 167-172)

    In late 2007, Judge Michael Corriero retired from the Supreme Court of New York. The work of the Manhattan Youth Part continues under the guidance of a new judge with new staff; another judge dedicated to the work of this specialized criminal court and, in his own unique way, to ideals of child-saving. In an interview a few months after his retirement, I asked Judge Corriero if he accomplished what he had set out to with the Manhattan Youth Part. He replied, “Yes, I think I did. I felt very good about what we were able to accomplish. But I...

  12. NOTES
    (pp. 173-192)
    (pp. 193-204)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 205-208)
    (pp. 209-209)