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Kids, Cops, and Confessions

Kids, Cops, and Confessions: Inside the Interrogation Room

Barry C. Feld
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 351
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  • Book Info
    Kids, Cops, and Confessions
    Book Description:

    Juveniles possess less maturity, intelligence, and competence than adults, heightening their vulnerability in the justice system. For this reason, states try juveniles in separate courts and use different sentencing standards than for adults. Yet, when police bring kids in for questioning, they use the same interrogation tactics they use for adults, including trickery, deception, and lying to elicit confessions or to produce incriminating evidence against the defendants. In Kids, Cops, and Confessions, Barry Feld offers the first report of what actually happens when police question juveniles. Drawing on remarkable data, Feld analyzes interrogation tapes and transcripts, police reports, juvenile court filings and sentences, and probation and sentencing reports, describing in rich detail what actually happens in the interrogation room. Contrasting routine interrogation and false confessions enables police, lawyers, and judges to identify interrogations that require enhanced scrutiny, to adopt policies to protect citizens, and to assure reliability and integrity of the justice system. Feld has produced an invaluable look at how the justice system really works.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-7046-7
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-11)

    Police interrogation raises complex legal, normative, and policy questions about justice administration and the relationship between the individual and the state. A fundamental tension exists between interests of law enforcement and protecting citizens. How should we structure the criminal process to maintain fair procedures, to process cases efficiently, to assure accurate fact-finding, to prevent police misconduct, and to protect the community from criminals? What practices should a democratic society allow police to use when they question citizens?

    These questions become even more problematic when police question juveniles. For more than a century, juvenile and criminal justice policies have reflected two...

  5. CHAPTER ONE Interrogating Criminal Suspects: Law on the Books and Law in Action
    (pp. 12-34)

    For three-quarters of a century, the Supreme Court has struggled to find the right balance between needs of law enforcement and protection of individuals during interrogation. The state wants reliable statements that will lead to successful plea, prosecution, and conviction. Citizens have a right to be free from coercive tactics and practices likely to elicit unreliable statements. Court decisions accommodate legitimate police practices and suspects’ rights.

    An adversarial system of criminal justice presumes equality between the individual and the state. The parties—prosecution and defense—control the contest, and the judge functions as an umpire to enforce procedural rules.² The...

  6. CHAPTER TWO Questioning Juveniles: Law and Developmental Psychology
    (pp. 35-59)

    The Supreme Court has decided more juvenile interrogation cases than any other aspect of juvenile justice administration. Although the Court repeatedly has cautioned trial judges that youthfulness could adversely affect young suspects’ ability to exerciseMirandaor to make voluntary statements, it has not mandated special procedures to protect them.Fare v. Michael C.endorsed the adult waiver standard—“knowing, intelligent, and voluntary” under the “totality of the circumstances”—to gauge juveniles’ waiver ofMiranda rights

    Developmental psychologists have examined adolescents’ decisionmaking capability, ability to exerciseMirandarights, and adjudicative competence. Their research questions whether juveniles possess the cognitive ability...

  7. CHAPTER THREE To Waive or Not to Waive: That Is the Question
    (pp. 60-102)

    More than four decades ago,Mirandastressed that police secrecy produced a “gap in our knowledge as to what in fact goes on in the interrogation rooms.” That gap persists. We donotknow many things about routine felony interrogation. How soon after suspects commit a crime do police question them? Where do police interview offenders? Who is present when they question a suspect? How and when do police administer aMirandawarning? How do they predispose suspects to waive their rights? How many youths waive? How do police document a knowing, intelligent, and voluntary waiver? How do youths who...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR Police Interrogation: On the Record
    (pp. 103-140)

    Interrogation is an art, rather than a science. Interviews vary with the personality and style of each investigator and offender, the circumstances of the offense and the evidence available, and the ebb-and-flow of conversations. One officer explained, “You’re taught a technique. And then you build on it. And then you end up developing what works best for you as a detective. Every detective interviews differently.” Another officer used a terpsichorean metaphor and observed, “The biggest thing about an interview is it’s like a dance. It’s not a set thing. You’ve got to be able to dance and respond to what...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE Juveniles Respond to Interrogation: Outcomes and Consequences
    (pp. 141-177)

    This chapter examines how the 285 youths whom police questioned responded to their interrogators. Part I examines how they answered and how much information they provided. It analyzes their demeanor during questioning, how their attitude affected whether they cooperated or resisted, the evidentiary value of statements, and the length of interrogations. Part II focuses on how youths’ decisions to waive or invokeMirandaaffected outcomes and sentences. The criminal and juvenile justice systems rely heavily on plea bargains, and youths’ admissions affect the balance of advantage between prosecutors and defense lawyers. The relationship between confessions and pleas highlights Packer’s Crime...

  10. CHAPTER SIX Justice by Geography: Context, Race, and Confessions
    (pp. 178-227)

    The same laws—statutes, procedural rules, and court decisions—apply throughout a state. But states decentralize justice administration, and courts function at a county or judicial district level. At the local level, judicial operations vary with social structure and community context and produce justice by geography.¹ For example, urban courts operate in a milieu that provides fewer mechanisms for informal social control than do suburban or rural courts. Urban courts are more due process oriented, place more youths in pretrial detention facilities, and sentence offenders more severely than do suburban or rural courts.² No reasons exist to believe that rural...

  11. CHAPTER SEVEN True and False Confessions: Different Outcomes, Different Processes
    (pp. 228-246)

    No system of justice is foolproof, but when errors occur, the state may convict an innocent person. Juvenile and criminal justice personnel inevitably make mistakes as byproducts of human fallibility or, more rarely, deliberate misconduct. Constitutional safeguards—for example, proof beyond a reasonable doubt, the right to confront and cross-examine witnesses, and the privilege against self-incrimination—function to reduce risks of error and to prevent the state from convicting the innocent.

    The Due Process model stresses the risk of mistakes and emphasizes reliability—a high level of quality control—in the justice process. It sacrifices some efficiency to maintain greater...

  12. CHAPTER EIGHT Policy Reforms
    (pp. 247-270)

    The Supreme Court decidedMirandain an empirical vacuum because researchers and nonpolice observers lacked access to interrogation rooms. Four decades later, police still control admission, and we have few studies of a low-visibility but outcome-determinative stage of criminal and juvenile justice. Audio and video recordings can expose the inner workings of interrogation rooms to external scrutiny. Four Minnesota county attorneys provided me with access toScalestapes and their associated files, and that entrée enabled me to describe and analyze routine felony interrogation of older delinquents. These findings have implications for in terrogation policy and the special case of...

  13. Appendix 1: Data and Methodology
    (pp. 271-281)
  14. Appendix 2: Where the Girls Are
    (pp. 282-288)
  15. NOTES
    (pp. 289-312)
    (pp. 313-332)
  17. INDEX
    (pp. 333-340)
    (pp. 341-341)