implementing and evaluating reform; a strengthened supporting role for the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP); a comprehensive research program on adolescent development and juvenile justice; and an improved statistical system.


Juvenile justice is a complex, multiagency system with multiple goals that often are perceived to be in tension with one another. The formal goals and purposes of juvenile justice have varied from place to place and from era to era (Bernard and Kurlychek, 2010). The origins of modern juvenile justice can be traced back to the 19th century, but many salient features of the current system have emerged more recently. In the 1970s, juvenile proceedings became subject to the constitutional vision of fundamental fairness, a challenge that has not yet been fully met. In the 1980s and 1990s, many states modified the mission of their juvenile systems to incorporate a greater emphasis on punishment and incapacitation. Some states later reversed some of those policies, but the statutory mission of juvenile justice continues to evolve. Lawmakers today are more likely to require the juvenile system to hold young offenders accountable for their law violations and to include “proportionate” sanctions in the statutes setting forth the goals of juvenile courts—as the states of Arkansas, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, and Rhode Island have done. Other states—Kentucky, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, Vermont, and West Virginia—still emphasize prevention and rehabilitation in their legal frameworks. In most states, the formal mission of the juvenile system is a mix of rehabilitation and public safety.

Despite these historical swings of emphasis, the basic legal structure of juvenile justice has survived since it was first conceived in 1899—a separate noncriminal court charged with responding to juvenile offending and emphasizing crime prevention rather than punishment. Tensions lie beneath the surface, and the interactions between law enforcement agencies and child welfare agencies will always reflect some differences in mission and perspective. However, the committee thinks that these complexities can be managed successfully within a developmental framework.

The overarching goal of the juvenile justice system is to support prosocial development of youth who become involved in the system and thereby ensure the safety of communities. The specific aims of juvenile courts and affiliated agencies are to hold youth accountable for wrongdoing, prevent further offending, and treat youth fairly. As we have explained in this report, these aims are compatible with one another and can all be achieved if they are implemented within a developmental framework. Guiding prin-

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