October is National Youth Justice Awareness Month
In 2005, the NCJFCJ, with funding from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, published the Juvenile Delinquency Guidelines: Improving Court Practice in Juvenile Delinquency Cases. The Guidelines resulted from a rigorous three-year development process involving over 100 juvenile justice experts across the nation including judges, prosecutors, defense counsel, probation, law enforcement, court administrators, child welfare, psychologists, and researchers/social scientists. Since its publication, dozens of juvenile justice courts across the nation have used the Guidelines to assess and subsequently reform practice to improve outcomes for system-involved youth and their families, and the NCJFCJ remains committed to supporting these implementation efforts through training and technical assistance.
In recognition of and consistent with the focus of October as National Youth Justice Awareness Month, the NCJFCJ highlights a key recommendation in the Guidelines that "...juvenile delinquency court jurisdiction should be in effect until a youth's 18th birthday" (p. 102). Further, the Guidelines affirms NCJFCJ policy that the determination to handle a case in juvenile court or transfer to criminal court is best made by an experienced juvenile court judge in a hearing with the youth represented by qualified counsel, and subsequently recommends "...waiver and transfer of juveniles to adult court should be rare and only after a very thoroughly considered process" (p. 102).
"Our fund of knowledge about adolescent brain development and the trajectories by which youth become involved in the juvenile justice system is expanding rapidly and is becoming quite sophisticated" says Shawn Marsh, Ph.D., the Chief Program Officer -Juvenile Law at the NCJFCJ. "Events such as National Youth Justice Awareness Month are important as they remind us to continually examine the intersection of science and law -- particularly as it relates to issues of competence, culpability, and 'adolescence as a mitigating factor' -- when making high consequence decisions about which court a case involving a juvenile charged with a serious offense should be heard."
For more information about the Guidelines and implementation activities, please click here.