issues has finally been reached. We think that this emerging societal consensus can be summarized along the following lines:
Most fundamentally, reducing recidivism by youth before the juvenile court should continue to be the primary goal of delinquency proceedings (i.e., the dispositional intervention should be designed mainly to “fit the offender”). At the same time, however, the juvenile justice system should also ensure that adolescents are held accountable for their wrongdoing and that, in doing so, they are treated fairly. A review of contemporary juvenile justice statutes reveals that they typically declare dual objectives: holding youth accountable and providing rehabilitative services to reduce their risk of reoffending. Both of these goals are necessary to satisfy public expectations that corrective action will be taken. In the committee’s view, both of these goals can and should be securely anchored in a developmental approach to juvenile offending.
In the committee’s understanding, saying that youth should be held accountable is not the same as saying that they should be punished. The concept of accountability is used in everyday speech to refer to a wide variety of mechanisms, both formal and informal, for declaring and enforcing norms of personal and institutional responsibility and taking corrective or remedial action. Formal mechanisms of accountability include being ordered to compensate a victim for the harm that one has caused, being dismissed from a position in a company for embarrassing the company or causing a loss to its shareholders, or even being turned out of office. Similarly, holding adolescents accountable for their offending vindicates the just expectation of society that responsible offenders will be answerable for wrongdoing, particularly for conduct that causes harm to identifiable victims, and that corrective action will be taken. It does not follow, however, that the mechanisms of accountability are punitive or that they should mimic criminal punishments. Condemnation, control, and lengthy confinement, the identifying attributes of criminal punishment, are not necessary features of accountability for juveniles, and should be avoided except in the rare instances when confinement is necessary to protect society.
Chapter 6 reviewed the evidence regarding the effects of interventions available to the juvenile justice system in preventing recidivism. In this chapter we address official actions taken by the juvenile justice system (and by parallel disciplinary systems in schools) from the vantage point of ensuring offender accountability and healthy legal socialization. Although most of the interventions addressed in Chapter 6 can serve both purposes, a key objective of this chapter is to highlight the potentially useful role of official actions other than juvenile court dispositions as instruments of accountability, particularly those associated with the process of adjudication itself. It is helpful in this respect to have in mind the entire process of involvement in the juvenile justice system, including all official interactions with law