Extended Jurisdiction

In response to criticisms that the length of commitment to the juvenile system is too short, some states have increased the maximum age of the juvenile court's jurisdiction over offenders. Many states allow a judge to commit a juvenile to be held in the state's juvenile corrections system up to age 21 (even though the court's jurisdiction for hearing and disposing of cases ends when a juvenile is 16 or 17). In California, Oregon, and Wisconsin, the extended age is 25 and in Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, and New Mexico, the juvenile jurisdiction extends for the full term of commitment, regardless of age.


Traditionally, the rehabilitative philosophy of the juvenile court led to protocols to protect the identity of and information about juveniles who came before it. Proceedings were closed to the public. The identity of juveniles was not disclosed. There was limited access to court records and the records could be sealed or expunged after a certain length of time. These measures were aimed at minimizing the stigma attached to court involvement and promoting the goal of rehabilitation. As state legislatures began stressing punishment and retribution over rehabilitation, many states changed their laws concerning confidentiality in the juvenile court.

As of the end of 1997, 30 states permitted or required open juvenile court hearings in cases involving juveniles charged with violent or serious offenses or repeat offenders (Torbet and Szymanski, 1998). And 22 of those states either created or modified their open hearing statutes between 1992 and 1997. For example, in 1997, Idaho added language to its statute requiring open hearings for all juveniles 14 or older charged with an offense that would be a felony if committed by an adult. States have also changed laws regarding the release of the name of a juvenile to the general public or the media. As of the end of 1997, 42 states allowed the release of a minor's name or picture under certain conditions, such as being found guilty of a serious or violent offense (Torbet and Szymanski, 1998).

Another area of legislative change involves access to juvenile court records. Although court records traditionally have been available by court order to any party who can show a legitimate interest, a number of states now allow access to a wide variety of people or agencies, including law enforcement, social service agencies, the schools, victims, and the general public. A number of states mandate notification of a juvenile's school when the child or adolescent is found guilty of particular offenses.

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