Bringing Facts into Fiction: The First 'Data-Based' Accountability Analysis of the Differences Between Presumptively Open, Discretionarily Open, and Closed Child Dependency Court Systems
38 Pages Posted: 27 Jul 2014
Date Written: July 26, 2014
Reducing secondary trauma for child-abuse victims and alleged juvenile delinquents who suffer jurigenic psychological harm by the legal system, which is designed to protect them, is a critically important goal. For almost twenty years, advocates in favor of presumptively opening juvenile courts to the press and public have argued that presumptively open courts provide abused children, their families, and the public a more responsive and better legal system than courts that are closed or that are discretionarily open based upon judges’ decisions that openness will not unreasonably harm child abuse victims. The majority of evidence presented to support the superiority of presumptively open courts involves anecdotes, and very little evidence-based data has been provided to support open-court advocates’ opinions and predictions. This study looks to federally mandated and private-institute evidence based outcome measures to compare the quality of services rendered to abused children under presumptively open, closed, or discretionarily open child-abuse court systems. The cumulative results demonstrate that presumptively open juvenile courts do not outperform discretionarily open or closed court systems on objective child and family outcome measures. This evidence can be generalized to child delinquency courts as well, since a high percentage of alleged juvenile delinquents are often poly-victims themselves who can suffer added psychological trauma from juvenile delinquency-court publicity.
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