clear Court-Related Programs

A 1996 OJJDP report by the National Center for Juvenile Justice, State Responses to Serious and Violent Juvenile Crime, documented a "trend toward redefining the purpose of the juvenile justice system" so that cases are increasingly handled "with the goal of punishment as opposed to rehabilitation."1 The report described statutory changes making it easier for juveniles to be tried as adults; the imposition of longer sentences; and the incarceration of juveniles with adults. Notwithstanding this trend toward tougher prosecution and incarceration of juvenile offenders, many juvenile courts also have begun to focus on rehabilitating offenders who it is believed may benefit from such treatment. Leading this movement have been juvenile and family drug courts patterned after the adult drug court pioneered in Dade County, FL, in 1989. Since juvenile cases represent a mixture of complex social issues and criminal behavior, the juvenile drug courts were designed to offer intensive, continuous judicial supervision of participants and coordination of treatment and rehabilitation services.2 Such courts are now active in more than 300 jurisdictions in the country. In these programs the judge plays a pivotal role, ensuring that youth, parents, and sometimes the entire family are properly assessed and receive necessary social services, especially since parental involvement greatly increases the likelihood of successful intervention.

A similar philosophy underlies the development of juvenile gun courts. Selected youth (typically first-time, nonviolent offenders) are eligible for these special court programs, which usually mandate parent education. Several jurisdictions have established diversion programs for youth charged with weapons offenses. These initiatives may include firearm education courses and presentations by experts or people who have been affected by firearm violence (coroners, gunshot victims, police officers, parents of those who died from firearm violence). Social services for youth and their families are also a key component in many of these programs.


1. National Center for Juvenile Justice, State Responses to Serious and Violent Juvenile Crime, Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, 1996.

2. C.M. McGee, J. Parnham, T.T. Morrigan, and M. Smith, Applying Drug Court Concepts in the Juvenile and Family Court Environments: A Primer for Judges. Prepared for the 1995 Drug Court Symposium at The American University under the Sponsorship of the State Justice Institute, 1998.

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Promising Strategies to Reduce Gun Violence OJJDP Report