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Juvenile Justice Reform Initiatives in the States

Chapter III
Selected Case Studies of Juvenile Reform Initiatives

Although some States have been enacting a series of single legislative measures aimed at juvenile justice, many others have embraced the idea of comprehensive juvenile code revision. Since 1994, several States have enacted laws that make broad changes to the types of treatment options and sanctions available for juveniles, the jurisdiction and sentencing authority of the juvenile and adult courts as they relate to juvenile cases, and the accessibility of information on juvenile offenders.

Each State that undertakes juvenile justice reform must be responsive to the unique political, social, and fiscal conditions that make up its environment. In this chapter, case studies from four States that are at various stages of implementing juvenile justice reform initiatives -- Colorado, Connecticut, Ohio, and Oregon -- will describe the strategy employed by each State in implementing its reform initiative.

The four States were chosen for several reasons. First, they represent different regions of the country and have distinct demographic makeups. Also, each reform initiative differs in its focus and stage of implementation: Colorado's is the newest reform initiative, enacted in 1996, while Connecticut and Oregon are grappling with implementation issues for initiatives passed in their legislatures in 1995. Meanwhile, Ohio's juvenile justice reform measure is well into statewide implementation following its enactment in 1993.

The case studies will explore what the context or climate was that encouraged policymakers to initiate changes in the juvenile justice system and whether these contextual factors were single events or the products of multiple influences. The proponents and opponents of change to the administration of juvenile justice will be identified, and the role that their support or opposition played in the evolution of the reform package as it moved through the legislative process will be discussed. Further, each case will not only identify and summarize the various programmatic elements and legal changes of the reform, but will go beyond that to identify obstacles that may hamper the implementation of the reform initiative and highlight those factors that facilitate support for changes in the administration of juvenile justice. Finally, each case study will report on the current status and prognosis for each subject State's reform initiative.

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