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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 69772 Find in a Library
Title: Discretion and Lawlessness - Compliance in the Juvenile Court
Author(s): J T Sprowls
Date Published: 1980
Page Count: 134
Sponsoring Agency: Lexington Books
New York, NY 10022
Sale Source: Lexington Books
866 Third Avenue
New York, NY 10022
United States of America
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: An empirical study of the relationship between law and the discretionary practices of Pennsylvania juvenile courts is presented with implications for the entire system of juvenile justice.
Abstract: The central findings of the study is widespread noncompliance among juvenile court judges with very specific legislative requirements, so that the line between discretion and lawlessness has become blurred. A critique of juvenile justice practices is followed by a detailed account of the Pennsylvania Juvenile Court Act (1973), provisions unique for the specificity and clarity of their expectations. In addition, recent Federal legislation on the court's discretionary power is considered, as is the likelihood of court compliance. A literature review on discretion and compliance documents the extent to which extralegal criteria influence official decisionmaking and demonstrates that neither statutory requirements nor court decisions are necessarily sufficient to ensure judicial compliance with instructions. Experiences connected with a 1975 study of nonurban Pennsylvania juvenile-court detention practices are described. Even with a modest and noncontentious survey instrument, researchers were forbidden access to several counties, prohibited from personally seeing court files in others, and had data confiscated by the juvenile court judge in one county. The book also identifies organizational and environmental factors that explain the court's ability to successfully avoid compliance, and specifies the additional conditions necessary to obtain compliance. In conclusion, the formulation of clear definitions for the terms discretion, compliance, accountability, and regulation is urged. The book is intended for a general audience. Tables of data gathered in the Pennsylvania study, a bibliography, and an index are included. (Author summary modified)
Index Term(s): Decisionmaking; Judicial discretion; Juvenile codes; Juvenile court procedures; Juvenile courts; Pennsylvania; Regulations; State laws
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