I am pleased to present Juvenile Justice Reform Initiatives in the States: 1994-1996, an overview of recent State juvenile justice reform measures. This report, prepared under a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, represents the dedicated efforts of the staff of the National Criminal Justice Association, working in affiliation with the National Governors' Association.
State juvenile justice systems recently have undergone a paradigm shift in their approach to the problem of preventing and responding to juvenile crime. The consequences and future implications of heightened rates of juvenile violence during the past decade have spurred State policymakers to initiate new programs and State legislators to enact new legislation that places a greater emphasis on public safety, imposes greater penalties for violent juvenile offenders, and creates innovative sentencing options.
This shift from the rehabilitative focus developed in the 1960's and 1970's to a more balanced system has created a need for enhanced communication between Federal agencies, the States, and local jurisdictions to gauge and monitor the impact of new laws and programs. It has also necessitated the development of a greater understanding of the factors and conditions that foster juvenile crime, especially violent juvenile crime. But, most urgently, it has created a need to understand where we are now. Without a clear picture of the current state of juvenile justice, the other two objectives would be all but impossible to meet.
Juvenile Justice Reform Initiatives in the States: 1994-1996, which identifies and analyzes issues and trends associated with State juvenile reform initiatives, represents an effort to fill that need. The report explains some of the more punitive measures, such as new criminal court transfer authority and expanded juvenile court sentencing options. However, many States have balanced these steps with enhanced resources and new programs designed to interrupt the development of youth violence and victimization. This document includes selected case studies of four States' implementation of such balanced initiatives.
It is my belief that this report will help crystallize the key issues facing juvenile justice practitioners and State-level policymakers concerned about the future of juvenile justice and help guide them in formulating future laws and policies in this important field.