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Delinquents or Criminals: Policy Options for Young Offenders

Butts, Jeffrey A
June 4, 2015

Source: (1998) Urban Institute. Downloaded 15 April 2003.

As Jeffrey Butts and Adele Harrell note, juvenile courts in the United States have changed considerably in the past 30 years. Their purposes and procedures have become very similar to adult criminal courts. Youth who violate the law are no longer guaranteed special treatment because of their age. While no state has formally abolished its juvenile justice system, it appears increasingly likely that states will ultimately abolish the concept of delinquency and all law violations by young people will be handled in criminal court. Yet, Butts and Harrell point out, young people are cognitively, emotionally, and socially different from adults. Even if changes take place as described above, it will be necessary to design a new justice process for young offenders within the existing criminal courts system. Hence, the authors argue that it is time to design a new youth justice system, especially by identifying best practices of the many specialty courts emerging throughout the country – for example, drug courts, gun courts, and community-based courts – and blending them into the juvenile court process.


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