Juvenile Justice: Community Treatment

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Juvenile courts and the rest of the juvenile justice system are responsible for dealing with:

(1) juvenile delinquents, who have committed an act, such as an assault or burglary, that would be a crime if committed by an adult; and (2) status offenders, whose behavior, such as school truancy, running away from home, or incorrigibility, is illegal for a child but would not be a crime if committed by an adult. The juvenile justice system has often been characterized as a series of decision points where various actorspolice, court intake workers, prosecutors, probation officers, judges, treatment managersweigh the situation and, with varying degrees of discretion, decide what to do with a child. The decision may be to do nothing further at this time, to negotiate an informal agreement with parents or others on a course of action in lieu of further formal processing, or to proceed with formal processing through the system. At the extreme, the decision may be to remove a child from his or her home, sometimes for a long time, or even to transfer jurisdiction to the adult criminal justice system. In contrast to the adult system, decisions in juvenile justice are guided by multiple goals, including treatment (sometimes termed rehabilitation, or competency development ) for the youth in addition to public safety protection and punishment.

Community treatment may be relevant at any of the decision points outlined above. Community treatment in juvenile justice refers to a number of interventions whose main similarity is that they are alternatives to placement in large, secure institutions, such as detention centers or training schools. As will be discussed later in this entry, the most common of these is probation. Other community treatment programs include diversion, home detention, youth service bureaus, day treatment programs, restitution and community service, and community residential placements, such as group homes and shelters.

Communities may initiate broad-based, delinquency prevention efforts such as DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) programs in schools, youth development and recreation programs, and alternative schools. Components of the juvenile justice system (juvenile courts, police, probation services, etc.) may be partners in such initiatives. These and related prevention programs, however, are discussed elsewhere in this volume. Community treatment programs within or directly tied to juvenile justice may be used to divert youths from further processing, as an adjunct to some other form of processing, or as the main element of a disposition. Following a description of diversion, this entry will review community treatment programs at various points in the systempre-adjudication (after arrest, while waiting for a court hearing), post-adjudication (following the dispositional hearing), or even as part of aftercare (following a stay at a residential institution). A concluding section examines some major issues and trends surrounding the use of community treatment in juvenile justice.


Diversion, which can occur at any decision point in the system, refers to a decision that neither ignores the child nor moves the child along the formal processing route. The decision normally involves an agreement between the official involved in that decision point and the youth's family to pursue some informal remedial action. Thus, police may recommend to a youth's parents that they pursue some counseling for the youth and/or arrive at an informal settlement with victims in lieu of referring the youth to court. The court intake worker or probation officer may similarly broker an agreement as an alternative to proceeding to a dispositional hearing. At a dispositional hearing, a judge may choose to formally dismiss the case but informally direct a family to pursue treatment of some kind.

Diversion programs proliferated in the late 1960s and 1970s in response to recommendations contained in a 1967 report from the President's Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice (LEAA) (Binder). This report embraced the notions of labeling theorists, such as Howard Becker and Edwin Lemert, who argued that formal delinquency processing paradoxically created further delinquency through secondary deviance. That is, once a child is labeled as delinquent as a result of formal processing for a delinquent act (primary deviance), teachers, police, and others would expect him or her to engage in further delinquency and would be quick to interpret any signs of problematic behavior as verifying that child's delinquent status. Moreover, according to labeling theory, the child would come to internalize the label and act accordingly. Subsequent delinquency results from these self-fulfilling prophecies (secondary deviance). According to labeling theory, diversion programs are attractive because they provide needed services while avoiding the stigmatization associated with formal processing, thereby presumably reducing the likelihood of future delinquency. With the encouragement of federal funding, a broad and creative range of diversion programs flourished, including a network of community-based Youth Service Bureaus (local centers for delinquency prevention programming) in many states, mostly in urban areas. The federal seed money soon evaporated, and most localities did not sustain the Youth Service Bureaus, yet they are making a comeback in some places, such as Indiana.

Critics soon focused attention on some troubling, unintended consequences of diversion (e.g., Austin and Krisberg; Ezell). While intended as an alternative to formal processing, diversion seemed at times to "widen the net" of social control. Instead of "capturing" youths who otherwise would be processed further through the formal system, diversion sometimes captured youths who otherwise would have been released, thus ironically increasing stigmatization and control. Furthermore, critics argued, diversion tended to be applied inequitably, more for girls and for white, middle-class youths than for persons of color.

Evaluations of diversion have shown mixed results (e.g., Davidson et al.; Osgood and Weichselbaum; Palmer and Lewis), suggesting that some diversion programs produce reductions in recidivism while others do not. As with any other aspect of juvenile correctional treatment, the key seems to lie in the matching of the appropriate youths with well-managed programs that can flexibly tailor services to meet individual needs.

While less prominent in the "lock 'em up" climate at the end of the twentieth century, diversion retains a place in the repertoire of community-based options for dealing with delinquents, and will likely continue to do so.


In the not too distant past, children apprehended by police were held routinely in police lock-ups and county jails. The Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act of 1974 ( JJDPA) resulted in dramatic changesmandating the removal of juveniles from adult jails and police lock-ups, requiring a parallel system of juvenile detention centers for those who needed to be held securely, and forbidding the secure confinement of status offenders and children in need of supervision. States' receipt of federal JJDPA funding was tied to their compliance with these provisions. Several community alternatives to detention have also evolved, as discussed below.

Shelters. Some communities have nonsecure, temporary residential facilities intended for children removed from their homes in the initial stages of child protective services investigations or for children who may be picked up by police as status offenders. In addition to these shelters, some communities also include a network of host homes, families who volunteer to provide temporary shelter to a child. Shelters and host homes provide a necessary adjunct to the juvenile justice system. Without them, some children might be held inappropriately in secure detention facilities, despite legislation that forbids this practice. Shelters may also be used as a nonsecure alternative to detention for allegedly delinquent youths who may not meet formal criteria for secure detention but for whom an immediate return home is not feasible. In some jurisdictions, nonsecure shelters and secure detention centers are adjacent wings of the same building, sharing some administrative and operating costs.

Holdover programs. Following the enactment of the JJDPA, as discussed above, many communities built juvenile detention centers. Small, rural communities, however, had neither the resources nor the expected demand necessary for such construction. As an alternative to using adult jails, some of these communities developed "holdover" programs to bridge the time between the arrest of a youth and transport to the nearest juvenile detention center, often several hours drive away. A holdover program requires a room (this might be located in a police station or sheriff's department, or some other public facility) and someone (either a volunteer or part-time employee) who can provide continuous supervision of a youth for a few hours or overnight pending transportation.

Home detention. Home detention serves as an alternative to placement in a secure juvenile detention center for youths who do not appear to require secure confinement but cannot just be released prior to their court hearing without some form of supervision. Home detention workers supervise small caseloads, make frequent and irregular visits to the youths' homes and schools, and may provide crisis counseling or other support. As an adjunct to, or in some cases instead of, intensive supervision of the youth by staff, some home detention programs rely on electronic monitoring (e.g., ankle bracelets that send electronic signals over the telephone to a central computer) to keep track of the youths at all times.

The first home detention programs appeared in the 1970s, and have become increasingly prevalent. Several evaluations suggest that they are quite effectivethat is, few youths on home detention acquire additional charges prior to their court hearings, and fewer still fail to appear at court hearings (Schwartz, Barton, and Orlando). There is ample evidence that many jurisdictions too readily use secure detention for youths who do not really need confinement (Schwartz and Barton; Snyder and Sickmund). Moreover, research has shown that placing a youth in secure detention increases the probability of subsequent residential placements, even when other factors, including offense, are held constant (Snyder and Sickmund). Home detention, therefore, may merit consideration for expansion and strengthening as an alternative to secure detention.


Probation. From its origins in Massachusetts in the mid-1800s, juvenile probation services have spread to virtually every jurisdiction in the nation. Whereas volunteers initially supervised youths, probation services have now become professionalized, staffed by graduates with bachelors degrees in the social sciences, social work, or criminal justice. Probation is most often operated at the county level, as part of a juvenile court or county executive agency. In some jurisdictions, however, such as Florida and Maryland, probation is administered by state juvenile correctional agencies.

Probation serves more youths than any other type of juvenile justice program. Howard Snyder and Melissa Sickmund summarize national statistics demonstrating how extensively the system relies on probation services. Using 1996 data, they estimate that more than half (54%) of all adjudicated delinquents are placed on probation along with an even higher percentage of adjudicated status offenders (60%). Given the numbers of delinquency and status offense cases referred to the nation's juvenile courts in 1996, this amounts to approximately 307,500 adjudicated delinquents cases and almost 50,000 adjudicated status offenders placed on probation. But probation serves almost as many additional youths who have not been formally adjudicated. Youths may be assigned to probation informally, either as an alternative to filing a formal court petition, or after an adjudication hearing even if not adjudicated. These other routes to probation resulted in an estimated 335,500 additional youths assigned to probation in 1996, bringing the total to nearly 693,000 (Snyder and Sickmund).

A youth on probation is assigned to a probation officer and usually has a set of conditions with which to comply. These conditions might specify such things as curfews, school attendance, periodic drug screening, hours of community service, making restitution to victims, or participating in various treatment programs. Failure to abide by these conditions results in a violation of probation, and a youth may be brought back to court and receive a more restrictive disposition. Violations of probation are misdemeanors, so that youths who are placed on probation as a result of a status offense and who subsequently violate the terms of that probation may then be charged with a delinquent offense, and thus be legally subject to such sanctions as detention or placement in training schools.

Probation officers are expected to enact two, sometimes contradictory, rolesservice provider or broker and behavioral monitor. As the former, they attempt to develop supportive relationships with the youths as counselors and advocates. As the latter, they check on the youths' compliance with the conditions of probation, and are responsible for filing probation violations. As described in conjunction with home detention above, electronic monitoring may also be used, or other staff, called trackers, may be employed solely to check on probationers' whereabouts. In addition to supervising perhaps as many as fifty to one hundred youths on their caseloads, probation officers also may be responsible for conducting intake investigations and preparing predispositional reports used by the court in determining case dispositions. Thus, the amount of attention they can devote to any particular youth may be limited. Many probation departments have developed classification schemes to guide the amount of attention given to different youths, ranging from monthly office visits and paper processing to intensive probation (discussed later in this section).

The balanced approach to juvenile probation was introduced by Dennis Maloney, Dennis Romig, and Troy Armstrong. Beginning with a recognition of three goals of juvenile corrections, this approach requires that probation services incorporate a balance among:

  1. Protecting public safety by effectively monitoring the behavior of juvenile offenders;
  2. Holding offenders accountable for their offenses and to their victims; and
  3. Facilitating the youths' competency development via rehabilitative and skill building services.

The balanced approach has gained considerable popularity, with some states, such as California and Florida, even officially adopting it in their mission statements for juvenile probation (Bazemore).

Despite the challenges posed by heavy caseloads and popular impressions that the juvenile justice system is a "revolving door" through which the same youths return again and again, probation is remarkably effective. Snyder and Sickmund estimate that 54 percent of males and 73 percent of females who enter the juvenile justice system (and remember that probation is the most common service used) never return on a new referral.

Intensive probation. A study by the National Council on Crime and Delinquency (Krisberg, Rodriguez et al.) cataloged a number of intensive supervision programs, operated in about one-third of all jurisdictions. Intensive probation is used with youths who pose higher risks to public safety than do typical probationers. It typically involves small caseloads (e.g., ten to twenty), and frequent, perhaps daily, contact between the youths and the probation officer. Studies have shown that some jurisdictions have successfully used intensive probation as a less costly alternative disposition for relatively nonviolent youths who otherwise might be sent to institutions (Barton and Butts; Krisberg, Bakke et al; Krisberg, Rodriguez, et al.; Wiebush and Hamparian). Others, however, have suggested that intensive probation is not effective when used with relatively nonserious offenders who would otherwise receive regular probation supervision.

Restitution and community service. Restitution refers to compensation made directly to victims by offenders. Restitution may take the form of monetary payments, services rendered, or the repair or replacement of damaged or stolen property. Because of its emphasis on atonement, restitution is often an important part of restorative justice models (discussed later in this entry), but may be ordered as part of an informal adjustment or as a condition of probation.

Community service, like restitution, involves the offender giving something back, although to the community at large rather than directly to the victim. Many probation orders include a prescribed number of community service hours. The service activities can range from neighborhood clean-ups to volunteering in nursing homes or other agencies, providing maintenance chores for elderly residents, or lecturing to other young people on the dangers of delinquency or the realities of correctional experiences.

Both restitution and community service have the potential to promote offender accountability to the community or to victims. The best of these activities have desirable competency development benefits to the offenders by providing meaningful, pro-social community involvement and useful skill development. A review of research suggests that restitution can reduce recidivism to some extent (Lipsey; Schneider). But restitution and community service should not be judged solely in terms of recidivism reductiontheir value may lie more in their restorative and accountability enhancing functions. As with any other aspect of the juvenile justice system's response to offenders, restitution and community service orders should be tailored to the individual youths and their circumstances, and should require amounts of time or compensation that are possible for the youths to provide.

Day treatment. Some adjudicated delinquents who remain living in the community may be ordered to attend day treatment programs. Those who cannot return to their regular schools may attend alternative school programs. Other programs operate in the after-school, evening, or weekend hours. Youths approaching employable age may receive job training services. Day treatment programs may include counseling services and recreation as well. They may have their own facilities or operate in a host facility, such as a Boys or Girls Club.

There are few specialized counseling models applied primarily to juvenile offenders. One of the best models is multisystemic therapy (MST), introduced by Scott Henggeler and Charles Borduin. MST recognizes the multiple factors presumed to cause delinquency, including the family, peers, and school, and interventions are designed to address each. Several studies, as summarized by Gail Wasserman and Laurie Miller, have shown that MST can be effective even for relatively serious delinquents. Since MST can be provided in the community, the cost is far less than institutional placement.

Community residential programs. Not all youths who are placed out of their own homes are sent to training schools or similar secure institutions. Some are assigned to group homes, therapeutic foster homes, and other community residential programs. These are usually small programs, with a handful of youths living with one or more adults who act as house parents. In most, the youths attend school or work, partake of other services, and participate in various activities in the community. Some, like the Teaching Family homes introduced by Boys Town ( Jones, Weinrott, and Howard, 1981), have well-developed treatment models. Others are less structured.

Community residential settings are intended to be less restrictive and more homelike than institutions. Some, however, may be relatively isolated from the community and resemble secure institutions in many respects. In one study, for example, Robert Coates, Alden Miller, and Lloyd Ohlin (1976) found that some group homes were indeed relatively open settings, with a family-like atmosphere and multiple community linkages, while others were more authoritarian, with few community linkages, and seemed more like institutions.

Independent living programs. While a goal of most juvenile correctional programs is the preservation or eventual reunification of families, for some adolescents pursuit of this goal is impossible or unwise. For some older adolescents, a goal may be emancipation, upon which the youth legally would no longer be under parental control. Independent living programs are designed to prepare youths for emancipation or for adult independence by housing them in apartments and providing support for them to develop basic skills such as grocery shopping, meal preparation, money management, and so on.

Wilderness and adventure programs. Many people may be familiar with ropes courses and other physically challenging programs used by some organizations to promote team cohesiveness and individual self-confidence. Not surprisingly, such programs have been used in juvenile justice for a long time. Some wilderness and adventure programs require relatively long stays of many months in remote locations, in camps, wagon trains, or ocean voyages, and cannot really be considered community-based treatment. Others are of shorter duration, perhaps a few days or a weekend, and may be accompanied by more traditional community-based counseling, educational or aftercare components. All rely on physical challenges to the participants. Some of the more widely known wilderness and adventure programs include VisionQuest, Ocean-Quest, Outward Bound, Homeward Bound, Associated Marine Institutes, and several operated by the Eckerd Foundation.

Albert Roberts reviewed these and other wilderness programs used with delinquent youths. He concluded that the evidence suggests that many of these programs are more effective than institutions at reducing recidivism, although evaluations are neither consistent nor definitive. A meta-analysis by John Hattie and colleagues was based on ninety-six studies of out-of-school adventure programs, including Outward Bound, around the world. Not all of these served delinquent youths. These studies documented gains in several areas, including youths' leadership abilities, self-concept, personality, interpersonal skills, and adventurousness. Like Roberts, Hattie and his colleagues noted that effectiveness varied among programs.

Wrap-around services. The youthful clients of the mental health, special education, child welfare, and juvenile justice systems are essentially the same, differing mainly in the "door" through which they access services. Yet that door profoundly influences the nature of services provided in the traditional categorical environment in which separate systems provide services with separate funding streams. Moreover, many youths and families become involved in more than one of these categorical systems, leading to confusion and overlap in service planning and provision. As an alternative, several communities are experimenting with wraparound services. Operating from a managed care framework, wraparound services involve a collaboration among service providers including schools, juvenile court, child welfare agencies, and mental health services. Using pooled funding resources, case managers coordinate the efforts of treatment teams, drawn from the collaborative partners and including the parents of the youths, to provide an array of services tailored to the needs of each individual youth. Although its origins were in the mental health arena (Stroul), the concept of wraparound services extends to youths involved in the juvenile justice system as well.

Mentoring. Mentoring programs, such as Big Brothers and Big Sisters, have a long history in the delinquency prevention and youth development arenas. While several studies (as summarized in Catalano et al.) have demonstrated little effectiveness for mentoring efforts, other research has been more promising (Tierney, Grossman, and Resch). To be effective with young people who have already engaged in delinquent behavior, mentors require special training. Mentoring may be used in conjunction with a variety of community treatment programs in juvenile justice, and may also be a component of community aftercare programs, as discussed in the next section.


What happens to juvenile offenders upon release from an institutional placement? For some, especially those who have been held until the age of majority, the moment they walk out the door, they are no longer under direct correctional supervision. Many, however, continue under the jurisdiction of parole or aftercare services. Juvenile aftercare may involve various combinations of transitional housing, employment training, school advocacy, mentoring, crisis counseling, behavioral monitoring, and drug and alcohol testing. These services are intended to facilitate reintegration into the community while providing a measure of surveillance and control during the transition. Resembling probation in many respects, aftercare is usually the responsibility of state juvenile correctional agencies, whereas probation is more often run by county courts. As in many probation departments, juvenile parole officers often have large caseloads that make meaningful levels of contact with individual youths impossible. Yet many would point to aftercare as the potentially most critical factor in keeping youths from reentering the system again and again.

Juvenile correctional institutions typically have high recidivism rates. Perhaps spending months or years in the company of other youthful offenders merely hardens individuals, providing them with more delinquent skills and motivations. Yet, even youths who have spent time in the best institutions, with effective rehabilitative programming producing demonstrable short-term improvements in behavior and attitudes, eventually return to the communities in which their delinquency was engendered, where the same influences persist. Moreover, their opportunities for educational or vocational advancement may be even more limited than before. Without adequate attention to aftercare and reintegration, it is not surprising that so many fail.

David Altschuler and Troy Armstrong have developed an Intensive Aftercare Program (IAP) model that carefully blends theory and practice. Key principles of the IAP model are:

  1. preparing youth for progressively increased responsibility and freedom in the community;
  2. facilitating youth-community interaction and involvement;
  3. working with both the offender and targeted community support systems (such as families, peers, schools, employers) on qualities needed for constructive interaction and the youth's successful community adjustment;
  4. developing new resources and supports where needed; and
  5. monitoring and testing the youth and the community on their ability to deal with each other productively (Altschuler and Armstrong, p. 11).

The IAP model begins while a youth is still in a correctional facility, providing preparatory skills and linking institutional and community professional staffs. Following a youth's release, the IAP model employs an intensive case management approach to provide support, surveillance, and community service brokerage. In some cases, IAP incorporates community residential programs as transitional components, like halfway houses. As with intensive probation, electronic monitoring or trackers may be used as additional control mechanisms. But the heart of the model is the individualized case planning and community support that continues when youths are returned to their families or to independent living arrangements. An IAP worker makes home visits, school visits, job visits, and the like as needed.

The IAP model is being piloted in four states, with evaluation results not yet in. Evaluations of other intensive aftercare programs have found mixed results. While some were quite successful (Sontheimer and Goodstein), others that had difficulty fully implementing intensive aftercare interventions had less favorable outcomes than regular aftercare (Deschenes, Greenwood, and Marshall; Greenwood, Deschenes, and Adams).

Issues and trends

Juvenile justice professionals and the general public continue to debate how best to address problems of juvenile delinquency. Tensions exist between those who favor a "get tough" or "lock 'em up" approach and those who favor using the least restrictive alternatives. Beginning in the late 1990s some have advocated the introduction of a radically different paradigm, restorative justice. This last section examines the role of the community in delinquency treatment in terms of these issues.

Institutional vs. community treatment. Advocates of community treatment advance several arguments in support of its use. Compared with institutional placements, community programs are less costly, less disruptive to families, and have the potential to address the youths' delinquency in the natural contexts in which it is likely to occur. Moreover, those youths placed in institutions eventually return to their communities, and, unless steps are taken to address the community context or provide community support to the youths upon their return, recidivism is likely. Community treatment rests on several values-based and theoretical assumptionsthat delinquent behavior is caused and maintained by a combination of factors, including environmental influences; that the probability of delinquency is reduced through strengthening a youth's bonds to the family, school, and other community institutions; and that families or family-like settings usually provide the best context for rehabilitation.

Those who question the appropriateness of community treatments point to the increased risk to public safety, the difficulty in altering patterns of peer group behaviors, and the challenges to and limitations of some families in providing adequate structure for their children as reasons to prefer institutional placement. They suggest that institutional placements protect communities by incapacitating offenders, act as both specific and general deterrents to delinquency, and foster rehabilitation through structure and discipline. There is ample evidence that institutional placements do incapacitate offenders. There is less support for the supposed deterrent and rehabilitative effects of incarceration.

Evidence accumulating over several decades indicates that the best juvenile justice systems are those with an extensive range of options at various levels of restrictiveness, but that many states and counties have too few options and end up relying too much on institutions. States vary considerably in the extent to which they rely on institutional placements. For example, the 1997 secure custody rate of committed delinquents in Louisiana was 459 per 100,000 juveniles age ten and older; comparable rates per 100,000 population were 386 in California, 175 in Missouri, 110 in Massachusetts, and 44 in Vermont (Snyder and Sickmund). Several studies have shown that between 40 and 60 percent of youths held in training schools in several states do not appear to be serious or chronic offenders by most reasonable definitions. Many have never committed a felony-level offense, but have had difficulties in various other placement settings, frustrating local probation officers and the courts.

Early evaluation studies in Massachusetts, which closed its juvenile training schools in 1972 and replaced them with a regional network of community-based alternatives, revealed an overall higher recidivism rate, except in areas where a full array of alternatives were available (Coates, Miller, and Ohlin). A later reevaluation found that once a well-structured system of dispositional options had been developed in Massachusetts, results compared favorably in terms of recidivism outcomes with other states that relied more heavily on secure institutions (Krisberg, Austin, and Steele). Favorable results for community treatment have also been observed in several other states.

Community treatment alternatives even hold promise for serious and violent juvenile offenders (SVJ), those adjudicated for major crimes against persons or property, usually thought to require confinement in secure institutions. A meta-analysis of more than two hundred evaluations of interventions for serious and violent juvenile offenders shows that the most effective ones involve interpersonal skills training, cognitive-behavioral treatment, or teaching family home programs (Lipsey and Wilson). As summarized by Rolf Loeber and David Farrington, "Interventions for SVJ offenders often have to be multimodal to address multiple problems, including law breaking, substance use and abuse, and academic and family problems" (p. xxiii).

Restorative justice. The adult criminal justice system is an adversarial system in which the state exercises its authority to exact retribution from criminal offenders whose guilt has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Defendants, in turn, are guaranteed certain rights or due process protections in the determination of guilt or innocence. Justice is accomplished when the punishment meted out fits the crime. The juvenile court movement at the beginning of the twentieth century, on the other hand, was based on a philosophy of parens patriae, in which the state assumed the responsibilities of a parent when the natural family was unable or unwilling to do so. Rather than the strict pursuit of justice, the goal of the original juvenile court was to act in the best interests of the child. During the course of the twentieth century, however, as described elsewhere in this volume, the Supreme Court recognized that the juvenile court did not always act in the child's best interest, and, in a series of decisions, gradually instituted for children many of the same due process protections afforded to adults.

Neither the adult criminal court nor the juvenile court appear to place primary emphasis on restoration, that is, repairing harm done to victims and providing offenders a way to regain full community status. The paradigm of restorative justice embraces these emphases. As outlined by Daniel Van Ness, restorative justice rests on three principles:

  1. Justice requires that we work to heal victims, offenders and communities that have been injured by crime;
  2. Victims, offenders and communities should have the opportunity for active involvement in the justice process as early and as fully as possible;
  3. We must rethink the relative roles and responsibilities of the government and the community. In promoting justice, government is responsible for preserving a just order and the community for establishing peace (pp. 89).

In the context of juvenile justice, restorative justice principles may be found in a variety of programs, such as victim-offender mediation, family group conferences, teen court (in which young people enact the roles of judge, attorneys, and jury to resolve cases), and some forms of restitution and community service. There is disagreement among restorative justice advocates over whether involuntary sanctions (e.g., court-ordered punishment) can play a role in restorative justice (Bazemore and Walgrave), but clearly the emphasis is on repairing harm, reintegrating offenders, and involving all affected stakeholders in the process. A national project, directed by Gordon Bazemore and Mark Umbreit, is attempting to develop and test the application of restorative justice to juvenile justice in several jurisdictions.


The real challenge for the juvenile justice system is to strike a cost-effective balance among the various alternative approaches. While the political climate and public rhetoric often reduce the issue to an overly simplistic battle between "get tough" conservatives and "bleeding heart" liberals, the real question is what works best, for what kinds of youth, under what conditions. The best systems seem to employ multiple response options flexibly along a wide continuum of restrictiveness, accompanied by assessment procedures that tailor responses to the unique situations of individuals, and monitored by careful evaluation of outcomes.

William H. Barton

See also Juvenile and Youth Gangs; Juvenile Justice: History and Philosophy; Juvenile Justice: Institutions; Juvenile Justice: Juvenile Courts; Juveniles in the Adult System; Juvenile Status Offenders; Juvenile Violent Offenders; Police: Handling of Juveniles; Prevention: Juveniles as Potential Offenders; Schools and Crime.


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