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Brick by Brick: Dismantling the Border Between Juvenile and Adult Justice

NCJ Number
Date Published
January 2000
47 pages
This chapter reviews the origins of juvenile justice in the United States, summarizes the legislative and policy changes that are effectively dismantling the juvenile-criminal border, and examines research on the impact of such policies.
Changes in juvenile law and juvenile court procedures are slowly dismantling the jurisdictional border between juvenile and criminal justice. Juvenile courts across the United States are increasingly similar to criminal courts in their methods as well as in their general atmosphere. State and Federal laws are being changed to send a growing number of young offenders to criminal court, where they can be tried as if they were adults. The two court systems appear to be moving toward complete convergence. Policymakers and practitioners must be aware of the factors that are leading to this convergence, and they should understand the effects it may have on offenders, victims, and the general community. After 30 years, the direction of juvenile justice policy appears unlikely to reverse. Eventually, the justice system may need to adapt to a new environment in which all criminal matters are referred to a single system, regardless of the offender's age. Children and adolescents will always be cognitively, emotionally, and socially different from adults. Abolishing the legal boundary between juvenile and criminal court does not eliminate all challenges faced by courts in responding to youth crime. As criminal courts begin to handle even more of the 14-year-olds and 15-year-olds who were once the responsibility of juvenile courts, judges and prosecutors will need to devise special procedures and programs for youth. A new youth justice system will have to be developed that can handle all types of young offenders promptly and effectively. Considerable work will be necessary to design and implement such a system. 9 exhibits and 68 references

Date Published: January 1, 2000