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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 76263 Find in a Library
Title: New Jersey's Mentally Retarded Juvenile Offender Program
Journal: Children's Legal Rights Journal  Volume:2  Issue:4  Dated:(January/February 1981)  Pages:31-34
Author(s): M J Prescott
Date Published: 1981
Page Count: 4
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: The Mentally Retarded Adolescent Delinquent Project (MRAD), sponsored by the Department of Pediatrics at Rutgers Medical School (New Jersey), addresses the special needs of mentally retarded youngsters involved with the juvenile justice system in New Jersey.
Abstract: The 3-year project was initiated to identify the size and characteristics of the target population, to determine the needs of the population, and to coordinate or create services to meet those needs. The target population included mentally retarded youngsters aged 18 years or younger who became involved with the courts as a result of a petition for juvenile delinquency or a status offense. In New Jersey, the agencies serving this target population include the Division of Mental Retardation (DMR), the Division of Youth and Family Services of the Department of Human Services, the Department of Corrections, and the juvenile justice system. Unlike MRAD, none of the relevant agencies use the current American Association of Mental Deficiency definition of mental retardation. A task force was appointed to assist MRAD staff; it was composed of persons representing each of the involved agencies and each of the appropriate advocacy groups. With the input and assistance of task force members, project staff conducted an indepth study of the characteristics and treatment of retarded adolescent offenders in New Jersey. The study confirmed the general feeling that retarded juvenile offenders were placed in a double bind, receiving neither the legal protection and social services available to nonretarded juveniles nor the full range of services available to retarded youngsters outside of the juvenile justice system. The juvenile court system regards retarded persons as the responsibility of the DMR, which can only provide placement in a large, congregate institution where the average length of stay is 2 1/2 years, and the guilt or innocence of clients is not established. Of 103 court-involved youngsters admitted to one DMR institution, 32 tested above the retarded range. Residential treatment services, group home placement, and rehabilitative programs are not available to the mentally retarded in juvenile correctional facilities. Using the results of this study, the task force has addressed the following issues: dispositional alternatives, evaluation and classification, training, and reform of laws and statutes. The task force concluded that not enough significant progress has been made and illustrates this point by pointing to the failure of their recommendation do require counsel for all children before they are sent to DMR. Two references are provided.
Index Term(s): Diagnostic and reception processing; Juvenile adjudication; Juvenile court diversion; Juvenile Delinquents with Intellectual or Developmental Disabilities; Juvenile status offenders; Law reform; New Jersey; Right to counsel; Rights of minors; Youth advocacy organizations; Youth advocates
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