Source: (2002) University of Cincinnati Law Review. 71: 65-93. Downloaded 14 November 2005.
In describing the fate of two boys found delinquent of a murder they had committed when ten and eleven years old, the headline of a Chicago newspaper declared “One convicted in boy’s death free, Second lives without hope.” That article went on to describe how the boys had dropped five-year-old Eric Morse to
his death from a high rise building because he would not steal candy for them; how the case “became a national symbol of the rising tide in violent juvenile crime” and how the judge, “in what has amounted to a bold experiment . . . decided to send the youths to prison but ordered state officials to provide them with intensive treatment.” The abhorrent nature of this crime initially drew national attention, including a statement by then President Clinton, who publicly expressed his consternation about such a tragedy. This case is an unspeakable tragedy for the victim and his family. It also represents the need for the American justice system to acknowledge and address the psychological factors
that contribute to juvenile delinquency. The judge’s order that these two minors receive mental health treatment as part of their sentence demonstrates that the mental health and juvenile justice systems must work together to address the psychological components of rehabilitating delinquent youth. That the newspaper considered this order to be “a bold experiment” suggests how far apart these two systems can be. This article reviews the concept of therapeutic jurisprudence and how mental health principles can be integrated into the juvenile justice system. Next, it discusses reasons the mental health and juvenile justice systems have not worked well together. Finally, the article presents current theories of juvenile justice and community mental health that would allow these systems to work more closely, as well as programmatic attempts to integrate mental health care with juvenile justice. (author’s abstract)