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At a Tender Age: Violent Youth and Juvenile Justice

NCJ Number
R Kramer
Date Published
309 pages
Based on 3 years of observations of the New York City family court system, this text examines the failure of the juvenile justice system to deal adequately and appropriately with the serious and violent juvenile offender.
Through interview data and case vignettes, major tenets of the juvenile justice system are critically explored, including its emphasis on rehabilitation and guidance, its evolution from a doctrine of parens patriae toward concern with due process and the rights of minors, and its emphasis on avoiding stigmatization and on using the least restrictive alternative. It is argued that the philosophy of rehabilitation behind the present system is obsolescent and ineffective in dealing with younger and younger criminals who perpetrate brutal crimes of random violence. The present judicial response gives insufficient weight to the sufferings of the victims of these crimes and their effects on the rest of the community. It is a system designed to deal with minor juvenile infractions, not muggings, rapes, and murders. It is a system in which educational and welfare resources are insufficient and the supervision, deterrents, and structures necessary to rehabilitation are lacking. The present system makes the courts a sanctuary for the most vicious of the criminal young, while also failing to reach those who might be deterred from a life of crime. This failure of the present juvenile justice system to either restrain or retrain the violent young is its most striking feature. Chapter notes, index, and 53 references.