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A New Juvenile Justice System

A New Juvenile Justice System: Total Reform for a Broken System

Edited by Nancy E. Dowd
With a Foreword by Charles J. Ogletree
Copyright Date: 2015
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 400
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  • Book Info
    A New Juvenile Justice System
    Book Description:

    A New Juvenile Justice Systemaims at nothing less than a complete reform of the existing system: not minor change or even significant overhaul, but the replacement of the existing system with a different vision. The authors in this volume-academics, activists, researchers, and those who serve in the existing system-all respond in this collection to the question of what the system should be. Uniformly, they agree that an ideal system should be centered around the principle of child well-being and the goal of helping kids to achieve productive lives as citizens and members of their communities.

    Rather than the existing system, with its punitive, destructive, undermining effect and uneven application by race and gender, these authors envision a system responsive to the needs of youth as well as to the community's legitimate need for public safety. How, they ask, can the ideals of equality, freedom, liberty, and self-determination transform the system? How can we improve the odds that children who have been labeled as "delinquent" can make successful transitions to adulthood? And how can we create a system that relies on proven, family-focused interventions and creates opportunities for positive youth development? Drawing upon interdisciplinary work as well as on-the-ground programs and experience, the authors sketch out the broad parameters of such a system.

    Providing the principles, goals, and concrete means to achieve them, this volume imagines using our resources wisely and well to invest in all children and their potential to contribute and thrive in our society.

    eISBN: 978-1-4798-0030-8
    Subjects: Law, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
    (pp. xi-xiv)

    Professor Nancy E. Dowd has compiled a wonderful and important book on reforming the juvenile justice system. Professor Dowd is no stranger to this area. In her scholarship, teaching, and speeches she has given around the country, she has discussed the rights of juveniles in the justice system. This book offers a new and compelling perspective on juvenile justice reform and why we should support the rights of children.

    As we think about how slowly we have revised the system for children, it is important to look back at the history of the treatment of juveniles in the juvenile justice...

    (pp. xv-xvi)
    Nancy E. Dowd
  5. Introduction: Re-visioning Youth Justice
    (pp. 1-20)

    What did you do as a kid, and as a teenager? Who were you as a teenager?¹

    Maybe you had a perfect childhood, in a perfect family, in a supportive community. More likely, there were ups and downs along the way, and if you were lucky, your parents and your community helped and supported you as you grew up. If you had learning disabilities, someone noticed and resources were brought to bear to help you. If you were distressed when your parents divorced, acted out in class and got in fights with classmates, teachers and counselors figured out what was...


    • 1 Child Well-Being: Toward a Fair and Equitable Public Safety Strategy for the New Century
      (pp. 23-44)

      At the beginning of the twenty-first century, the social and economic indicators for children in neighborhoods of intense poverty were bleak, and public policy was seemingly bereft of innovative ideas. Policies such as “zero tolerance,” “stop and frisk,” and gang injunctions reflected worn and tired approaches to youthful misbehaviors by pathologizing neighborhoods and criminalizing normal adolescent behavior under the guise of protecting public safety. During this same period, while income and health disparities grew, graduation rates declined and incarceration rates increased for young people of color.

      Advocates, organizers, philanthropists,¹ and others resisted these hostile headwinds with bold analyses of structural...


    • 2 A Silent Sea Change: The Deinstitutionalization Trend in Juvenile Justice
      (pp. 47-62)

      American reliance on confinement for youth charged with or convicted of delinquent acts is a critical characteristic of our juvenile justice system. It is also wildly out of sync with the practices of other nations. Though cross-country comparisons are somewhat difficult, given the idiosyncrasies or inadequacies of the varied databases, a rough approximation published in 2008 revealed that the U.S. juvenile incarceration rate was anywhere from 5 to 35 times greater than other economically developed, democratic countries1 (see figure 2.1). In that analysis, the U.S. rate stood at 336 per 100,000 youth incarcerated, whereas the next highest rate was 69...

    • 3 Starting from a Different Place: The Missouri Model
      (pp. 63-85)

      Does any of this sound familiar? The images are reflective of what the general public typically associates with traditional adult correctional facilities or prisons. The unfortunate reality is that this may also describe the experience of many youths in the juvenile correctional system, more generally described as the juvenile justice system.

      The architects of a separate system of justice for youthful offenders embraced rehabilitation rather than punishment as its central mission. The juvenile justice system was intended to promote accountability, to prevent reoffending, and to treat youth fairly—each of which is best served by a rehabilitative orientation.¹ There have...

    • 4 Doing Things Differently: Education as a Vehicle for Youth Transformation and Finland as a Model for Juvenile Justice Reform
      (pp. 86-103)

      Compared to the rest of the industrialized world, justice policies and practices in the United States are abysmal. While some variability exists in juvenile justice practices and policies across the states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico, in general our system of juvenile justice is punitive, ineffective, and expensive.¹ The devolution of the United States from being a world leader in juvenile justice policy and practice to its current status as a nation that locks up a disproportionate number of its youth engaged in delinquent behavior, especially minority youth and youth with disabling conditions, did not happen overnight. The...

    • 5 Delinquency, Due Process, and Mental Health: Presuming Youth Incompetency
      (pp. 104-126)

      Juveniles with unmet mental health needs are at much higher risk for involvement with the juvenile justice system, and often the very behavior causing them to be arrested and charged is a manifestation of the mental health disorders from which they suffer.¹ Nevertheless, juveniles with mental health problems continue to fill detention facilities at a disproportionate rate, often without having ever been diagnosed or treated.²

      The demographics of delinquency cases expose unmet mental health needs in such large and compelling numbers that due process mandates the incorporation of mental health services in the juvenile justice system. This chapter proposes elimination...


    • 6 Why Should We Treat Juvenile Offenders Differently than Adults? It’s Not Because the Pie Isn’t Fully Baked!
      (pp. 129-138)

      There is a wide degree of consensus among behavioral scientists, child advocates, policy makers, and the general public that we should treat juveniles who commit crimes differently than we treat adult offenders—at least some juveniles. This consensus begins to break down a bit when we focus on older or so-called mature adolescents, especially those who engage in very serious offenses. However, even in the latter context, the U.S. Supreme Court has indicated that some mitigation is appropriate.¹

      In fact, in a relatively recent string of cases, the Supreme Court has held that offenders under the age of 18 were...

    • 7 Lost in Translation No More: Marketing Evidence-Based Policies for Reducing Juvenile Crime
      (pp. 139-155)

      Across the political spectrum, all share the goal of reducing juvenile crime. “Evidence-based” (i.e., empirically demonstrated to be effective in rigorous scientific studies) juvenile offender programs are consistent with the increasing demand from policy makers, funders, and consumers for evidence-based practices in many arenas, including medicine, education, and social services.¹ Yet the demand for such practices often does not translate to juvenile justice, with rehabilitative programs being perceived as too ineffective, costly, and lenient because they fail to satisfy society’s retributive need to punish offenders.²

      Even though effective evidence-based programs have been available for 20 years,³ they still “are not...

    • 8 Building on Advocacy for Girls and LGBT Youth: A Foundation for Liberatory Laws, Policies, and Services for All Youth in the Juvenile Justice System
      (pp. 156-171)

      Since the 1980s, juvenile justice reform advocates have argued that girls in the system have unique needs and experiences¹ and that system actors have engaged in biased treatment against girls.² More recently, advocates for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth have made similar arguments.³ Over time, both groups of advocates have succeeded in raising awareness about these populations, creating and promulgating “best practice” guidelines for working with these youth⁴ and changing laws, policies, and practices for treatment of girls and LGBT youth in the juvenile justice system.⁵ As with all other young people in the system, there is still...

    • 9 Invest Upstream to Promote the Well-Being of LGBT Youth: Addressing Root Causes of Juvenile System Involvement
      (pp. 172-190)

      Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth have always been present in the juvenile justice system. Historically, the juvenile justice profession has largely denied or ignored this reality and its implications for policy and practice. Recent research and advocacy efforts have documented that which social justice organizations and children’s advocates have long contended: social stigma and structural bias place LGBT youth at increased risk of contact with law enforcement, inappropriate criminal charges, unwarranted detention, and abusive treatment in custodial settings. Because of the vulnerability and documented abuse of incarcerated LGBT youth, reform efforts have focused on creating safeguards to protect...


    • 10 Correcting Racial Disparities in the Juvenile Justice System: Refining Prosecutorial Discretion
      (pp. 193-216)

      State actors exercise vast discretion at all stages of the juvenile justice system. Police must decide whether to arrest or release an accused youth; prosecutors must decide whether to prosecute, divert, or dismiss a juvenile case; and judges must decide whether to detain or release a child at the arraignment or disposition. Even when a youth’s behavior meets the statutory elements of a crime, police and prosecutors have discretion not to arrest or prosecute and may instead identify creative alternatives to adjudication. Once a youth is referred to juvenile court, the responsibility for case intake is often shared between prosecutors...

    • 11 Helping Adolescents Succeed: Assuring a Meaningful Right to Counsel
      (pp. 217-226)

      “Kids today have it much easier than when we were growing up.” How often have you heard that or said that? The sad reality is that in the past two decades throughout the United States, it has become increasingly more costly for teenagers to do what teenagers typically do—experiment, rebel, and make mistakes. The difference is not caused by the photographs and posts they publish on social media. Rather, a child’s impulsive act can become a permanent ball and chain resulting in a lifetime of denied opportunities, forever barring him or her from becoming a productive adult citizen. In...

    • 12 Fit to Be T(r)ied: Ending Juvenile Transfers and Reforming the Juvenile Justice System
      (pp. 227-238)

      On Saturday mornings, we teach creative writing to boys held in the Special Housing Unit of a Los Angeles County juvenile detention facility. Among our students, who are primarily boys of color, there are “fitness fighters”—that is, boys trying to convince a juvenile court judge that they are fit to be tried as minors. Those who have lost their fitness join Magic and dozens of others held in “the compound,” which houses youth being tried as adults for crimes they allegedly committed while underage. The fitness fighters we meet as volunteer teachers are reminders that in California, as in...

    • 13 Applying J.D.B. v. North Carolina: Toward Ending Legal Fictions and Adopting Effective Police Questioning of Youth
      (pp. 239-264)

      One of the critical points of contact for youth and the juvenile justice system occurs when police question youth. During questioning, police may be required to give youthMirandawarnings to inform them of their right to remain silent and their right to legal counsel. In 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court, inJ.D.B. v. North Carolina,¹ adopted a developmental approach regarding how the age of a juvenile determines when police must provideMirandawarnings. Significantly, the Court’s decision was the first time the Court applied its understanding of juvenile development outside the punishment context.² This chapter explores howJ.D.B.has...


    • 14 What If Your Child Were the Next One in the Door? Reimagining the Social Safety Net for Children, Families, and Communities
      (pp. 267-280)

      At the Center on Children and Families (CCF) conference that gave rise to this volume, one speaker asked us to imagine, as we envisioned a new and better juvenile justice system, that our child was the next child in the door. The “we” of this supposition suggests assumptions that it is important to make explicit. Today’s juvenile justice system is peopled by poor kids. Disproportionately they are poor kids of color. Pernicious interactions of structural racism and classism permeate the system. Collectively we tolerate the system precisely because it serves to control and subordinate those kids, those families, and those...

    • 15 Immigrant Children: Treating Children as Children, Regardless of Their Legal Status
      (pp. 281-295)

      In recent years, the immigration system has seen a marked increase in the number of children reported to federal immigration authorities while in the juvenile court system.¹ Most of the children who end up in the immigration system by way of the juvenile court system are children who were brought to the United States by parents when they were young. These children have little to no control over their immigration status.² Moreover, many may be eligible for visas or other immigration benefits that would allow them to remain permanently in the United States, in lawful status.³ Yet the juvenile courts...

    • 16 Crossover Youth: Youth Should Benefit When the State Is the Parent
      (pp. 296-300)

      States must parent diligently when children are in their care. Good parents deal with behavior as behavior, not crime; they support their children if they find themselves in court; and they provide their children good legal counsel. The cost of failing to parent well is a diminished future for the child and three times the cash outlay for the state.¹ We owe it to our children to do better.

      When the state exercisesparens patriaeby removing children from their families, it implicitly promises to parent better. That means addressing the consequences of abuse and neglect by providing everything children...

    • 17 Breaking the School-to-Prison Pipeline: New Models for School Discipline and Community Accountable Schools
      (pp. 301-310)

      Any discussion reimagining our juvenile justice system must also reimagine our schools. Over the past decade, community-based organizations of parents and students, along with civil rights groups such as the Advancement Project,¹ have documented the school-to-prison pipeline—the devastating trend of funneling students out of the classroom and into the juvenile and criminal justice systems.² Children—and particularly children of color, children with disabilities, and children who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer (LGBTQ)—are disproportionately affected by the school-to-prison pipeline. This chapter first outlines how the pipeline operates and the effects of harsh disciplinary practices on young...

    • 18 No More Closed Doors: Ending the Educational Exclusion of Formerly Incarcerated Youth
      (pp. 311-332)

      “They don’t want me. They think I’m a criminal.” That is how Dante explains why he was not allowed to attend his local high school after being released from juvenile custody in 2012, at age 17. Dante had spent 15 months inside D.C.’s juvenile correctional facility, where he attended the Maya Angelou Academy.¹ When Dante was released, he had a 2.9 grade point average and enough credits to qualify as a high school senior. He looked forward to spending his final year of high school in a community school where he could go out for the basketball team.

      Dante’s family...

    • 19 Collateral Consequences of Juvenile Court: Boulders on the Road to Good Outcomes
      (pp. 333-348)

      If you ask a roomful of successful adults if they committed acts as teenagers that violated the law, most will admit that they did.¹ Some were not caught; some were caught but turned over to their parents; and others were prosecuted but not made a ward of the court. They may not have behaved any better than the youth who were caught, but for the most part, they escaped the direct and collateral consequences of involvement with the juvenile justice system.

      This chapter examines the collateral consequences of juvenile court proceedings, an area in which juvenile court intervention has become...

    (pp. 349-352)
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 353-355)