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Is the Juvenile Justice System Lenient?

NCJ Number
Criminal Justice Abstracts Volume: 18 Issue: 1 Dated: (March 1986) Pages: 104-118
Date Published
15 pages
This review examines the bases for one assumption underlying contemporary juvenile code revisions: that the juvenile justice system is too lenient.
Conventional perceptions of attrition attribute it to benevolent uses of discretion and a commitment to the best interests of the child, particularly during police and intake decisionmaking. An examination of case processing, however, reveals other explanations for attrition, including inadequate substantiation of reported misbehaviors and the availability of punishment options prior to adjudication. Discretion in the juvenile justice system is a door that swings both ways. In informal handling, probation officers have an incentive to eliminate weak cases from the system by assigning them to less visible forms of control. On the other hand, the juvenile justice system has less incentive to support strictly adversarial procedures during police encounters and adjudication, since attrition at each of these stages is equivalent to release from system control. In each case, discretion can be exercised in ways not regarded as lenient. Moreover, procedural informality is associated with failure to observe due process and may encourage a presumption of the juvenile's guilt. 79 references. (Author abstract modified)

Date Published: January 1, 1986