Juvenile Justice: The Fourth Option
62 Pages Posted: 13 Nov 2009 Last revised: 15 Dec 2009
The current eclectic mix of solutions to the juvenile-crime problem is insufficiently conceptualized and too beholden to myths about youth, the crimes they commit, and effective means of responding to their problems. The dominant punitive approach to juvenile justice, modeled on the adult criminal justice system, either ignores or misapplies current knowledge about the causes of juvenile crime and the means of reducing it. But the rehabilitative vision that motivated the progenitors of the juvenile court errs in the other direction, by allowing the state to assert its police power even over those who are innocent of crime. The most popular compromise theory of juvenile justice - which claims that developmental differences between adolescents and adults make the former less blameworthy - is also misguided because it tends to de-emphasize crime-reducing interventions, overstate the degree to which adolescent responsibility is diminished, and play into the hands of those who would abolish the juvenile justice system, since it relies on the same metric - culpability - as the adult criminal justice system. This Article argues that, with some significant adjustments that take new knowledge about the psychological, social, and biological features of adolescence into account, the legal system should continue to maintain a separate juvenile court, but one that is single-mindedly focused on the prevention of criminal behavior rather than retributive punishment.
Keywords: juvenile justice, prevention, retribution, Hendricks
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