Juvenile Justice: The Fourth Option

62 Pages Posted: 13 Nov 2009 Last revised: 15 Dec 2009

See all articles by Christopher Slobogin

Christopher Slobogin

Vanderbilt University - Law School

Mark R. Fondacaro

University of Florida, Dept of Pysch and Levin College of Law


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

Suggested Citation

Slobogin, Christopher and Fondacaro, Mark R., Juvenile Justice: The Fourth Option. Iowa Law Review, Vol. 95, No. 1, 2009, Vanderbilt Public Law Research Paper No. 09-29, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1504251

Christopher Slobogin (Contact Author)

Vanderbilt University - Law School ( email )

131 21st Avenue South
Nashville, TN 37203-1181
United States

Mark R. Fondacaro

University of Florida, Dept of Pysch and Levin College of Law ( email )

PO Box 112250
Gainesville, FL 32611-2550
United States
352-392-0601 (Phone)
352-392-7985 (Fax)

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