Juvenile Justice Reform Initiatives in the States

Chapter II
Issues and Trends in State Juvenile Justice Reform


States have responded with increasing urgency to the problems presented by violent youth behavior. Nearly every State in the past 2 years has enacted legislation changing the way juvenile justice is implemented. From programs that help prevent a child's misbehavior from evolving to more delinquent and violent acts to those that allow juveniles to be tried and sentenced in adult criminal court, States have responded in a variety of ways to the challenges inherent in combating youth crime.

Presented here are juvenile justice initiatives that have been undertaken by many States in the past few years. They are discussed in an order that lends itself to the notion of providing a continuum of services to high-risk delinquent youth or responding to juvenile delinquency with sanctions that are both immediate and reflective of the nature of the crime committed. The topics are juvenile crime prevention, curfews, combating youth gangs, parental responsibility laws, juvenile boot camps, youth and guns, opening juvenile records and proceedings, juvenile transfer to criminal court, and expanded sentencing authority.

It should be noted that although this report focuses primarily on State-level responses to juvenile crime, some consideration of local measures to address youth violence (both as offender and victim) and delinquency is presented. A discussion of curfew laws is included, for example, even though curfew restrictions are overwhelmingly imposed by local jurisdictions, because of the number of localities that have enacted curfew ordinances in an effort to preserve public safety. Further, local responses to juvenile crime are presented in the gang section when describing multijurisdictional collaboration to combat gang violence and in the parental responsibility section when discussing local laws that hold parents criminally responsible for their children's misconduct and delinquent behavior.

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