New laws have had a dramatic impact on sentencing for serious or violent juvenile offenders


A trend away from traditional juvenile dispositions is emerging

Juvenile court dispositions were traditionally based on the offender's individual characteristics and situation. Dispositions were often indeterminate and generally had rehabilitation as a primary goal. As many States have shifted the purpose of juvenile court away from rehabilitation and toward punishment, accountability, and public safety, the emerging trend is one of dispositions based more on the offense. Offense-based dispositions tend to be determinate and proportional to the offense, and retribution and deterrence have replaced rehabilitation as primary goals.

Many State legislatures have made changes to disposition and sentencing options

From 1992 through 1995, statutes requiring mandatory minimum periods of incarceration for certain violent or serious offenders were added or modified in 16 States.

States have also raised the maximum age of the juvenile court's continuing jurisdiction over juvenile offenders. Such laws allow juvenile courts to order dispositions that extend beyond the upper age of original jurisdiction -- most often to age 21. From 1992 through 1995, 12 States extended their dispositional age limit.

Perhaps the most dramatic impact on sentencing will be felt by the imposition of "blended sentences" that combine juvenile and adult sentences. Blended sentencing statutes, that allow courts to impose juvenile and/or adult correctional sanctions on certain young offenders, were in place in 16 States at the end of 1995.

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Juvenile Offenders and Victims: 1997 Update on Violence