The Four Paths of Juvenile Justice

As the Department of Child Services, juvenile advocates, and many juvenile courts continue to focus on community-based intensive services for delinquents, rather than removal to detention centers or treatment facilities, it may be helpful to look at an article that advocates both treatment and incapacitation, when necessary.  Juvenile Justice: The Fourth Option85 Iowa L. Rev. 101 (2009) by Christopher Slobogin and Mark R. Fondacaro speaks of a different juvenile court model or path — individual prevention —  that considers ongoing developments about the psychological, social, and biological features of adolescents.  The model has a single-minded focus on prevention of criminal behavior, rather than retributive punishment.  The goal is specific deterrence through treatment, and, if necessary, incapacitation.

In simple terms, the three models currently used around the country include:

  1. Rehabilitation — The child’s behavior is explained by their age.  Disposition is designed to make the child a better person and confinement is meant as punishment.
  2. Adult Retribution — Young people who commit crime are fully accountable individuals who should be punished in the same fashion as adults, which has lead to broader waiver/transfer legislation and more adult-like dispositions.
  3. Diminished-Retribution — Juveniles are neither innocent or fully capable, but their responsibility is diminished due to their age.  Dispositions are discounted to the degree of immaturity.

This article was one that was featured at the ABA Neuroscience and the Law seminar in Chicago.

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