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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 69675 Find in a Library
Title: Juvenile Justice in Transition
Journal: Pepperdine Law Review  Volume:4  Issue:3  Dated:(Summer 1977)  Pages:469-478
Author(s): J C Dixon
Date Published: 1977
Page Count: 10
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: California's legislative reforms to redress deficiencies in the juvenile court system are discussed with particular attention to A.B.3121, enacted in August 1976.
Abstract: Juvenile courts were originally established as a means of separating nonviolent, rehabilitable juvenile offenders from the adult system. Trials were private with the probation officer playing a major role as an objective officer of the court because protection of the public was not a concern. In recent years, the functions of the juvenile court have been altered by Supreme Court decisions extending to juveniles the rights to counsel, jury trial, and bail. At the same time, there has been a dramatic rise in violent crimes committed by juveniles in California. In this chaotic situation, probation officers are beginning to act as representatives of the people in opposition to the defense attorney. Consequently, courts have focused resources on violent juveniles and neglected minor offenders who could probably benefit from rehabilitation. Status offenders have also been unnecessarily detained in secure facilities designed for criminals. Several legislative changes in the juvenile system were proposed, in 1975, but the laws were not revised until the 1976 session, when A.B. 3121 was enacted. This legislation deinstitutionalized status offenders and instituted restitution programs, to instill minors with a sense of responsibility for their actions. Prosecuting attorneys representing the people were placed in the juvenile court in criminal matters, thus permitting the probation officers to resume their concern with corrective plans and balance minors' interests with the protection of society. The bill also provided that 16 or 17-year-olds charged with certain felonies are presumptively unfit for trial in the juvenile court and will be transferred to the adult court, unless the juvenile can present evidence to rebut the presumption. A.B. 3121 will be monitored to assess its effects, but these reforms cannot be expected to prevent all juvenile problems. Society's total dedication to early childhood education and return to family concerns are needed to resolve difficulties of juveniles, their parents and their communities.
Index Term(s): California; Juvenile codes; Juvenile courts
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