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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 76241 Find in a Library
Title: Juvenile Justice Reform - Some American-Scottish Comparisons (From Children's Hearing, P 216-223, 1976, F M Martin and Kathleen Murray, ed. See NCJ-76236)
Author(s): S J Fox
Date Published: 1976
Page Count: 8
Sponsoring Agency: Columbia University Press
New York, NY 10025
Sale Source: Columbia University Press
562 W. 113th Street
New York, NY 10025
United States of America
Language: English
Country: United Kingdom
Annotation: Reforms of the juvenile justice system in America and Scotland are compared.
Abstract: In both countries, a central issue in the debate over how to improve the system was the relative importance of rules of law on the one hand and powers of discretion on the other. In Scotland the responsibility of administering criminal law and the duty to reach discretionary decisions were separated by the establishment of children's hearings. In contrast, the American juvenile justice reform in the sixties sought to limit overpowering of the law by discretion and to revitalise the phases of the juvenile justice process where decisions were to be made by reference to rules of law. Because large numbers of children in American juvenile courts were from lower-class minority families, the reform got caught in the civil rights movement and the war on Poverty. The claim of legal rights was at the forefront of the insistence on a better life for the poor and minorities. As a consequence, rather than focusing on juvenile courts' capabilities to use discretionary disposal powers appropriately, Americans concentrated on confining discretion and administering law. While granting children legal rights has been a landmark accomplishment in America, the exercise of legal rights has imposed a barrier between the children and adults' efforts to help them, doing little to remedy the resource starvation of the system. While the Scottish reform model also suffers from a lack of resources and has fallen short of its intended goals, the relative success of the new Scottish system and the failure of the American system to provide meaningful change suggest directions for alteration of the American system. First a panel-type organization should be created to achieve a high level of communication in conflict situations, as the Scottish hearings do. Second, a more modest definition of progress in this area should be adopted. Resources should be devoted to control and protection rather than minor delinquencies and cases involving no criminal conduct. In the Scottish system and ultimately both systems, questions remain about the purpose of the new systems and about how far educational principles should encroach on personal lives. Three references are supplied.
Index Term(s): Court reform; Court reorganization; Discretionary decisions; Judicial discretion; Juvenile justice system; Scotland; United States of America
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