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Crime File: Juvenile Offenders

NCJ Number
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This video cassette, number 13 in the Crime File series, portrays a panel discussion of the rationale for and the effectiveness of the juvenile justice system, the advantages and disadvantages of processing serious juvenile offenders as adults, and due process in the juvenile justice system.
As an example of the problem posed for the criminal justice processing of a dangerous juvenile offender, the handling of a 15-year-old boy charged with murder is reviewed. The boy, who was charged in the second-degree murder of a youth on a street corner, was tried as an adult in Alexandria, Va. In an interview, the prosecutor argues that the youth would not have benefited from rehabilitation programs under the juvenile justice system and the maximum incarceration that could have been provided by the juvenile court would have been too short (only until age 21). The probation officer in the case argues for a rehabilitative approach under the jurisdiction of the juvenile justice system. In the panel discussion following this case review, Peter Greenwood of the Rand Corporation indicates that his research shows that in cases similar to the one reviewed, juveniles processed by juvenile courts would receive 1 to 2 years incarceration; whereas those tried by adult courts would receive 8-10 years in prison. Greenwood also discusses adult court access to juvenile records, juvenile crime rates, and the likelihood that repeat juvenile offenders will become adult criminals. Panelist Gladys Kessler, a judge in the Family Division of the D.C. Superior Court, argues that the juvenile justice system is more likely than the adult criminal system to provide the rehabilitative services needed by juveniles. She acknowledges, however, that juvenile services are not as comprehensive nor as effective as they should be. Panelist Barry Feld, a professor at the University of Minnesota Law School, argues for due process parameters in the juvenile justice system to parallel adult processing. He views the only practical rationale for the juvenile justice system to be the dispenser of more lenient sentences than adult courts for juveniles is based on their ages. Judge Kessler disagrees with Feld, maintaining the juvenile justice system should be geared to provide individualized, rehabilitative sentencing.

Date Published: January 1, 1984