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The Juvenile Justice System

            This paper examines juvenile and criminal justice policies and practices with respect to young offenders who cross over from the juvenile to the criminal justice system. It focuses on the age period between mid-adolescence and early adulthood (roughly ages 15 to 29), with a particular focus on older juvenile delinquents ages 15-17 who are candidates for transitioning into the criminal justice system, and young adult offenders ages 18-24. .
             The juvenile and criminal justice systems in the United States have experienced a tumultuous period over the past half century. Beginning in the 1960s, the national crime rate sharply increased, prompting some criminologists to join with political forces to reject the rehabilitative ideal in favor of a "justice model " that limited correctional officials' discretion with offenders and instituted determinate sentencing. A pessimistic 1974 review of program evaluations in juvenile and criminal justice systems buttressed the pendulum swing from treatment to punishment. Some analysts warned of a coming generation of juvenile "superpredators." Although this dire prediction never materialized, the more punitive philosophy of the criminal justice system filtered down to the juvenile justice system and ushered in significant changes in policies and procedures for handling juvenile offenders. Large numbers of juvenile offenders were removed from the juvenile justice system and placed in the criminal justice system. Blended sentence provisions were enacted into law along with offense-based criteria and mandatory minimum sentences. Punitive measures were used more widely. New laws designated more juveniles as serious offenders, brought more minor offenders into the system, and extended periods of confinement in juvenile correctional facilities. .
             The period of overreaction to juvenile crime appears to be ending. Both the juvenile and criminal justice systems are returning to an emphasis on rehabilitation and evidence-based practices.

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