A Sensible Model for Juvenile Justice

Jeffrey A. Butts (2008). YTFG Briefing Paper #3: A Sensible Model for Juvenile Justice. Chicago, IL: Youth Transition Funders Group.

The juvenile justice system needs a new, sensible model for policy and practice, one that can be used to design and deliver interventions for the full range of delinquent offenders coming to the attention of law enforcement and the courts.

Policies and practices in the juvenile justice system are often developed in reverse. Problems are remodeled to fit existing solutions. Too often, interventions that are appropriate for particular subgroups of juvenile offenders — those charged with serious and violent crimes or those afflicted with serious drug problems and mental disorders — are allowed to become the model for all youth. Practitioners are grateful for the growing menu of evidence-based interventions for addressing drug problems and mental health issues, and these programs are an important and necessary component of an effective juvenile justice system, but they are not sufficient by themselves as a strategy for controlling juvenile crime. The juvenile justice system needs a new intervention model that is appropriate for young offenders who do not fit one of the existing treatment categories. The concepts of positive youth development may offer a way to build such a model.