adjudicated delinquent (i.e., found guilty), a disposition hearing (similar to sentencing in criminal court) is held to determine the appropriate sanction. Dispositions include commitment to an institution, placement in a group or foster home or other residential facility, probation, referral to an outside agency or treatment program, imposition of a fine, community service, or restitution. At any point during the process, some juveniles may be held in a secure detention facility. In 1996, juveniles were detained in 18 percent of criminal delinquency cases processed by the juvenile courts (Snyder and Sickmund, 1999).

Juvenile courts also vary by the extent of services for which they are responsible. Some courts oversee only the adjudication process, while others provide a full array of preadjudication and postdisposition services. In over half the states, juvenile courts administer their own probation services, and many are responsible for detention and intake as well (Torbet, 1990).

Some researchers have expressed concerns regarding certain juvenile justice procedures. As mentioned previously, the lack of a right to a jury trial may have consequences for the outcome of a trial. Also at issue is legal representation for juveniles. As in adult court, juveniles have the right to be represented by an attorney. The majority of states, however, allow juveniles to decide independently to waive their rights to an attorney without having had legal counsel prior to the decision (U.S. General Accounting Office, 1995b). This practice is inconsistent with the assumption that children are different from and should be treated differently than adults, in that it implies that juveniles can make the decision “voluntarily and intelligently, ” although studies suggest that juveniles are not as competent as adults to waive their rights in a “knowing and intelligent” manner (Feld, 1993:31).

Studies from 1980 to 1990 found that the majority of juveniles were not represented by an attorney, including the majority of youths who received out-of-home placement (Feld, 1993). Rates of representation varied between urban and rural jurisdictions, and among states and within states (U.S. General Accounting Office, 1995b).

Also of possible concern are the quality and impact of attorney representation. Some studies suggest that there are grounds for concern about the effectiveness of defense counsel in juvenile trials, possibly because of inexperience and large caseloads (Feld, 1993). Studies also indicate that presence of counsel in juvenile courts is related to differences in pretrial detention, sentencing, and case-processing practices (Feld, 1993). One study (U.S. General Accounting Office, 1995b) found that, in general, while unrepresented juveniles were as likely as represented juveniles to be adjudicated as delinquents, they were less likely to receive out-of-home placement for certain crimes than juveniles with attorneys. The

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement