The Honest Politician's Guide to Juvenile Justice in the Twenty-First Century

Barry C. Feld

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11 Scopus citations


Within the past three decades, judicial decisions and legal changes have transformed the juvenile court from a nominally rehabilitative social welfare agency into a scaled-down, second-class criminal court that provides young offenders with neither therapy nor justice. The migration of African Americans from the rural South to the urban North that began three-quarters of a century ago, the macrostructural transformation of American cities and the economy over the past quarter of a century, and the current linkages in the popular and political culture between race and serious youth crime provide the impetus for get-tough policies to crack down on juveniles. The procedural and substantive convergence between juvenile and criminal courts has occurred because juvenile courts attempt to combine social welfare and criminal social control in one agency. If states uncouple social welfare from social control, then they can try all of fenders in one integrated criminal justice system. But states must formally recognize youthfulness as a mitigating factor at sentencing. A youth discount—shorter sentences for reduced culpability— provides a practical administrative mechanism to recognize youthfulness as a mitigating factor.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)10-27
Number of pages18
JournalThe ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 1999


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