Palm Beach Post

Florida kids: Adult crime, adult time

by Douglas Kalajian
Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
June 4, 2000

… The first major blow to juvenile court independence came in the 1960s, when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the sentence of an Arizona teen who was locked up for three years because he made a prank phone call. After that, juvenile courts began to adopt more adult-court conventions: More concern for the rights of the accused, a heavier burden of proof for prosecutors.

Although the high court’s instinct was liberal, the long-term effect wasn’t necessarily so.

A less-independent juvenile court system has become more vulnerable to political intrusion, Butts says. The two systems have moved closer, although the juvenile courts maintain important distinctions.

“There is still a remnant of the border that somewhat protects the juvenile system from the more intense politics of the adult system: Mandatory sentencing, three strikes you’re out, abolishing parole,” Butts says. “All the things that make no sense but are very good in campaign speeches.”

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