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Goal Conflict in the Juvenile Court: The Evolution of Sentencing Practices in the United States

Urban, Lynn S
June 4, 2015

Source: (2003) Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice. 19(4):454-479.

Since its original implementation, the United State juvenile justice system has undergone significant changes. Initially, sentencing of youth focused on personal and social needs rather than the offense. With the increase in youth crime, there has been a shift in both public and political opinion toward a more punitive approach. Recent Federal funding in the form of grants for specific juvenile justice purposes has created conflict in the juvenile justice system, where punitive punishment and a focus on accountability have clashed with the initiation of restorative justice practices. This article describes the changes in the United States juvenile system, highlights the sentencing practices in other countries, such as Australia, New Zealand, England, Wales, and European countries, and addresses the conflict between punitive and restorative practices. It examines changes in sentencing practices in St. Louis, MO, and describes various restorative programs and projects including the St. Louis Nightwatch program, Truancy court, and the VOM program. Sentencing practices in the United States are in transition, lagging behind many other countries in initiating a move toward restorative justice. The United States struggles with the conflict between the appropriate punishment, victim involvement, and offender accountability. This article shows that the transition between philosophies is seldom easy or smooth. Abstract courtesy of National Criminal Justice Reference Service,


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