Source: (2003) Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice. 1(3): 276-288.

At its’ birth, the juvenile justice system was idealized as a humanitarian effort of child-savers who wanted to aid wayward youth by removing them from the clenches of the criminal justice system and providing them with social services. A series of U.S. Supreme Court decisions began remolding the juvenile justice system in an effort to save it from abuses of informal authority. Then, as youth crime spiked during the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, legislators reacted in knee-jerk fashion by imposing stiffer penalties on juveniles without the benefit of research and data. However, by the late 1990’s, some exemplary programs for youth began appearing that were research-based. These research-based programs are compared to the more political and reactionary approaches that infiltrated mainstream society during the early and mid 1990’s. Early intervention programs for children and parents, youth victimization and prevention initiatives, and zero-tolerance policies in schools are compared in terms of punitive and restorative value and outcomes for youth. Finally, the authors provide an overview of legislative changes in juvenile justice that have emerged since the 1990’s, particularly focusing on “reactive stance of the past�? (RAP) programs versus the “balanced attention�? (BARJ) model of juvenile justice. The authors conclude that while the get-tough strategies of the early 1990’s still persist, there is movement toward more research-based and prevention-oriented-based youth programs. Abstract courtesy of National Criminal Justice Reference Service, www.ncjrs.org.