There appears to be little, if any, organized opposition to raising the age of delinquency. But those who resist say doing so would hamstring the legal system, according to Jeffrey A. Butts, the director of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice’s Research and Evaluation Center. In rare cases involving a particularly dangerous child, he said, incarceration may prevent them from being a risk to others.
Even during periods of relatively low violence, the incidence of violent behavior by and among young people is a prominent issue. Policymakers and communities always need effective methods of addressing violent acts by youth.
Juvenile court cases involving charges of obstruction of justice, simple assault, drug law violations, vandalism, and disorderly conduct combined accounted for 48,200 new placement cases in 2008, or more than 90 percent of all growth in out-of-home placements between 1985 and 2008.
The 1995-2010 drop in violent crime ranged from –50% to –74% in these states, but the size of the decline was not related to the use of transfer. Florida transfers more youth than any other state, but its violent crime drop (–57%) was in the middle of the range. In states that use transfer much less often, total violent crime fell almost as much (California and Washington) or far more (Ohio) than it did in Florida.
Research shows that young people who participate in youth court or teen court programs may have lower rates of recidivism. Adults involved in the programs attribute much of their success to the influence of positive peer pressure and the value of giving young people a voice in the process. Joining Radio Times host Marty Moss-Coaneus to tell the story of youth courts are Jeffrey Butts of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, who has evaluated teen court programs across the country; and attorney Gregg Volz, who has implemented school-based youth courts in Chester.
This chapter addresses the growing use of specialized, problem-solving courts for delinquent juveniles. After introducing the specialized nature of the juvenile court itself, we describe three of the most popular forms of specialized courts for youths (teen courts, juvenile drug court, and juvenile/family mental health courts), and we examine several key policy and practice issues related to their operation.