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Saving the Child - Rejuvenating a Dying Right to Rehabilitation

NCJ Number
New England Journal on Criminal and Civil Confinement Volume: 11 Issue: 1 Dated: (Winter 1985) Pages: 123-159
M L Blasko
Date Published
37 pages
The right to treatment is examined within the context of the history and goals of the juvenile justice system and recent case law.
The underlying rationale of the juvenile court at its inception was the doctrine of parens patriae which was based on the assumption that the state would act in the child's best interest: the focus was on saving, not punishing, the child. As juvenile justice evolved, an appreciation of the child's distinct status resulted in the formation of a right to treatment for incarcerated juveniles as an avenue to guarantee the promises of the juvenile justice philosophy. The right to treatment doctrine has had an erratic history. With the U.S. Supreme Court avoiding the issue, there has been disagreement between the appeals courts regarding the soundest propositions for and against the establishment of the right. Neither the First nor the Fifth Circuit Courts (in Morales v. Turmand and Santana v. Collazo) have upheld a constitutional right to rehabilitative treatment. While Federal courts and legal scholars have expressed optimism regarding a juvenile's guaranteed right to rehabilitative treatment, the lack of U.S. Supreme Court approval has resulted in ad hoc application of this right among jurisdictions. This reluctance to take a firm stance has prevented States from restructuring their juvenile justice systems and will continue to postpone the eradication of juvenile crime. Footnotes are provided.