Study finds a pervasive trend to "crack down on juvenile crime" among State legislatures


Statutes analysis and phone survey used to assess changes in response to juvenile crime

Researchers at the National Center for Juvenile Justice conducted an analysis of State laws enacted from 1992 through 1995 that addressed serious or violent juvenile offenders. The legislative analysis was supplemented with information gleaned from a telephone survey of juvenile justice specialists, juvenile prosecutors, and State juvenile corrections officials in each State. In addition, research and State task force reports were reviewed.

Five areas of change emerged as States passed laws designed to crack down on juvenile crime

The study identified a clear pattern of change in the following five areas:

  • Jurisdictional authority -- Laws removed an increasing number of serious and violent juvenile offenders from the system in favor of criminal court prosecution (41 States).

  • Sentencing authority -- Laws gave criminal and juvenile courts new sentencing options (25 States).

  • Confidentiality -- Laws modified or removed traditional juvenile court confidentiality provisions to make records and proceedings more open (40 States).

  • Victims' rights -- Laws increased the role of victims of juvenile crime in the juvenile justice process (22 States).

  • Correctional programming -- Adult and juvenile correctional administrators felt pressure to develop programs as a result of new transfer and sentencing laws.

The authors comment that the "dramatic shifts in [these] areas . . . " have resulted from a "trend toward redefining the purpose of the juvenile justice system [that] represents a fundamental philosophical departure . . . " The rationale for the changes is "to punish, hold accountable, and incarcerate for longer periods of time those juveniles who, by history or instant offense, passed a threshold of tolerated juvenile law violating behavior."

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Juvenile Offenders and Victims: 1997 Update on Violence