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Future of Juvenile Courts

NCJ Number
Revue penitentiaire et de droit penal Volume: 4 Dated: (October/December 1979) Pages: 635-644
M Driscoll
Date Published
10 pages
Future directions in juvenile courts are assessed on the basis of developments in the United States.
In recent years numerous professionals in the U.S. have rejected the legal principles on which juvenile courts are based. In fact, the 1967 Gault precedent in the Supreme Court established that juvenile courts lacked respect for the rights of juveniles and used irregular procedures which lengthened juveniles' stays in residential groups or even landed them in prison. As a result, laws have been adopted to protect the rights of juveniles and to specifically define goals and services of rehabilitation programs. The newly founded Institute of Judicial Administration in conjunction with the American Bar Association appointed a committee in 1971 to set norms for the administration of justice for juveniles; recommendations of the committee have been published in 23 volumes. These norms have been the basis for numerous other collections of norms. Such collections of standards propose further reduction of court authority: penalties are to be exactly defined, certain offenses are to be decriminalized, and parents and juvenile offenders are to be given a greater role in judicial proceedings. Different forms of detention, conditional release, or suspension are prescribed as sanctions. Emphasis is shifted from considering the individual socialization needs of youthful offenders to examining the nature of the crime, the offender's age, and culpability issues. Judges are deprived of the expert opinions necessary for balanced decisions; they must rely on the administrative division to assist in imposing provisional detention or supervised liberty. Interventions in neglect or abandonment cases or removal of children from parental custody are also restricted. Such recommendations reflect the desire for effective crime control in view of growing crime rates and the lack of uniformity in court responsibilities. Changes have thus come about but crime rates have not dropped and only a small percentage of crimes reported produce arrests. Courts have begun to gather statistics in the course of their work. However, the author stresses the need for the public and officials to comprehend that the major part of juvenile court work has nothing to do with juvenile recidivists or violent crimes. Juvenile courts must be allowed to assign juveniles to programs according to individual factors and must make efforts to publicize their successes. Notes are supplied.