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Has the Juvenile Court Outlived Its Usefulness?

NCJ Number
Date Published
December 1996
11 pages
Publication Series
This video of a teleconference presents a panel of juvenile justice experts, who present arguments for and against the continuation of the juvenile court system; the video includes questions from satellite viewers and the live audience to the panel members.
The teleconference is presented in the context of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention's first national conference, "Juvenile Justice at the Crossroads," held December 12-14, 1996, in Baltimore, Md. The panel is composed of a juvenile court judge, a law professor (Barry Feld), a staff attorney for the Youth Law Center, and a district attorney. Each of the panel members first briefly states his/her view of the continuation of the juvenile court system. The juvenile judge, the attorney for the Youth Law Center, and the district attorney favor the continuation of the juvenile justice system. The district attorney supports the transfer of serious juvenile offenders to adult criminal courts so they will be subject to adult sanctions. Barry Feld, the law professor, favors the abolition of the juvenile court and the creation of an integrated criminal court that will recognize youth as a mitigating factor in sentencing. Juvenile correctional resources would be maintained to provide appropriate services for young offenders. After the brief statements of position by the panel members, the moderator presents two hypothetical case histories of young offenders, one with a lengthy history of offending and previous contact with the juvenile justice system and another with a short history of problem behavior, including the torturing and killing of a cat, as well as a petty offense of burglary from a garage. Barry Feld and the district attorney favor adult court processing of the more serious offender, while the two other panel members suggest an appropriate response by a juvenile justice court. Those who favor the continuation but improvement in the juvenile justice system indicate that the adult criminal justice system has not been effective in rehabilitating adults, so that it offers little promise of success with youth. The juvenile court, on the other hand, is in a position to coordinate community resources for intervention in the lives of juveniles. The panel also discusses how the two hypothetical cases would be handled under a hypothetical unified court system. Questions from satellite viewers and the live audience focus on how juveniles might be more effectively processed.

Date Published: December 1, 1996