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Violent Youth and Public Policy: A Case Study of Juvenile Justice Law Reform

Feld, Barry C
June 4, 2015

Source: (2003) 79 Minnesota Law Review. 965.

In recent decades public perception of a significant increase in youth crime and violence fueled great concern about public safety and the effectiveness of the juvenile justice system. A “get toughâ€? response judicially, legislatively, and administratively has led to considerable convergence between juvenile and adult criminal courts. Juvenile courts in many jurisdictions have been transformed from rehabilitative welfare agencies (at least in theory) into scaled-down, second-class criminal courts for young people. Consequently, debate has grown about the future of juvenile justice: will juvenile courts remain different and distinct from criminal courts; or will they further converge and beg the question of the need for a separate juvenile system? A participant in these debates, Barry Feld writes also as a member and committee chair of the 1992-1994 Minnesota Juvenile Justice Task Force that recommended major revisions in Minnesota’s juvenile code. The resulting 1994 Juvenile Crime Act used the “modified just desertsâ€? framework of the Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines to structure the most important sentencing decisions of juvenile court. In this article Feld provides a general background to the 1994 reforms, analyzes the process of law reform, and examines in detail the substance of the 1994 legislative changes.


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