Neither Sweden nor Denmark uses a separate juvenile court, but youthful immaturity is considered a mitigating factor in deciding their criminal responsibility. In Denmark, maximum punishments well below those available for adults are specified in law for juveniles 15 and older; juveniles under the age of 15 may not be punished, but may be referred to a social welfare agency. In Sweden, imprisonment may only be imposed on juveniles under exceptional circumstances, and even then, the sentences imposed are shorter than for adults.
The United States has a very high overall rate of incarceration. At 645 per 100,000, the U.S. incarceration rate is second only to that of Russia at 685 per 100,000 (Walmsley, 1999). Although adequate juvenile incarceration figures do not exist in the United States, the incarceration rate for homicides committed by juveniles is illustrative of the difference in incarceration rates. In 1992, 12.5 people per 100,000 were incarcerated in the United States for homicides committed as juveniles. Comparable numbers in other countries are 2.3 per 100,000 in The Netherlands, 1.6 per 100,000 in Italy, and 1.3 per 100,000 in Germany (Pfeiffer, 1998). Some of the differences in juvenile homicide incarceration rates are likely to be due to differences in homicide commission rates. In none of the 15 countries surveyed by Weitekamp et al. (1999) can a juvenile who commits a crime be executed, whereas this practice is allowed in the United States.
The Panel on Juvenile Crime: Prevention, Treatment, and Control was asked to identify and analyze the full range of research studies and datasets that bear on the nature of juvenile crime, highlighting key issues and data sources that can provide evidence of prevalence and seriousness; race, gender, and class bias; and impacts of deterrence, punishment, and prevention strategies. The panel was further asked to analyze the factors that contribute to delinquent behavior, including a review of the knowledge on child and adolescent development and its implications for prevention and control; to assess the current practices of the juvenile justice system, including the implementation of constitutional safeguards; to examine adjudication, detention and waiver practices; to explore the role of community and institutional settings; to assess the quality of data sources on the clients of both public and private juvenile justice facilities; and to assess the impact of the deinstitutionalization mandates of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act of 1974 on delinquency and community safety.
To meet this charge, the study panel and staff gathered information in a number of ways. Relevant research studies were identified through