policy. Ironically, the procedural reforms that youth advocates had promoted appeared to support the legitimacy of an adversarial regime that ignored developmental differences between juveniles and adults.
Stage Three: Getting Tough on Juvenile Offenders
The sweeping legal reforms in the 1980s and 1990s resulted in juvenile justice policies quite different from both the traditional rehabilitative model and the due process model of the 1960s and 1970s. This third period of reform was triggered by an increase in violent juvenile crime, particularly homicide, in the late 1980s that generated hostility and fear of young offenders. Advocates for the punitive reforms offered a dramatically revised account of delinquent youth; no longer were they depicted as wayward children whose welfare was a key concern to the justice system. Indeed, an important theme of these reforms was that young offenders were not different from their adult counterparts in ways that were relevant to criminal responsibility or to the justice system’s response to their crimes. Youthful immaturity might warrant a more lenient response toward youth engaged in petty criminal conduct, but those who committed serious (and particularly violent) crimes should be punished as adults (Doherty, 1998). The mantra of punitive reform, “adult time for adult crime,” captured the sentiment of the period (Wagman, 2000).
Public concern about violent juvenile crime was an important (and legitimate) catalyst for reform during this period, but the legal changes were often undertaken under conditions that had the hallmarks of a “moral panic” (Cohen, 2002; Goode and Ben-Yehuda, 2009; Howell, 2009). Young offenders were characterized as super-predators who posed a grave threat to society—a threat that advocates predicted would worsen unless drastic measures were taken (Dilulio, 1995; Fox, 1996). In several states, legal changes followed high-profile juvenile crimes—school shootings (as in Arkansas following the Jonesville shootings) or gang killings of innocent bystanders. The media focused on these incidents, politicians expressed grave concern, and the public responded with alarm— contributing to an increasingly urgent sense that “something must be done” (Scott and Steinberg, 2010). Legislatures in turn rushed to pass laws that would respond to the concerns expressed by their constituents to protect the public and punish young offenders. Legitimate concerns about public safety became exaggerated in response to salient incidents or political campaigns, so that in some states harsh laws were enacted even though youth crime had been declining for several years.
In pushing for major legal reform, critics targeted the juvenile court for its ineffectiveness in controlling crime (Zimring, 1998). As mentioned earlier, beginning in the 1970s, critics pointed to mounting evidence that cor-