Delinquents or Criminals: Policy Options for Young Offenders

Jeffrey A. Butts and Adele V. Harrell (1998). Delinquents or Criminals: Policy Options for Young Offenders. Washington, DC: The Urban Institute.

This report reviews the historical context of juvenile justice in the United States, analyzes recent trends in the search for more effective juvenile justice policies, and presents a number of alternative court models that could provide a foundation for a new system of youth justice. Meaningful reforms in juvenile crime policy have been difficult to achieve. Lawmakers are torn between the views of youth advocates who defend a traditional juvenile court that no longer exists, and hardliners who want to send even more youths to an adult court system that is still not prepared to deal with them properly. Focusing the attention of policy makers on the need to build a new youth justice system with a diverse menu of options for young offenders might help calm the acrimonious debates about transferring young offenders to adult court. Public officials could return to the serious business of ensuring that the court system as a whole balances the interests of justice, public safety, and the individual rights of all defendants regardless of age.