Chapter 3 Specific Justice Systems and Victims' Rights
Section 1, Juvenile Justice
This section offers an overview of the juvenile justice system as it
pertains to the administration of justice and issues of importance to
victims of crime. Included within the presentation and discussion is information
concerning the differences between the juvenile and criminal justice systems.
This section also addresses victims' rights within the juvenile justice
system and how victim advocates and juvenile justice agencies can develop
programs and services that assist victims of juvenile offenders.
Upon completion of this section, students will understand the following
- An historical overview of the juvenile justice system.
- Juvenile justice procedures.
- Victims' rights within the juvenile justice system.
- Initiatives that involve victim/offender programming and creative
dispositions that incorporate raising victim awareness among juvenile
- Victim assistance services in juvenile court.
- Promising practices.
- In 1998, law enforcement agencies in the U.S. made an estimated 2.6
million arrests of persons under age eighteen (OJJDP December 1999).
- Juveniles were involved in 12% of murder arrests; 14% of aggravated
assault arrests; 35% of burglary arrests; 27% of robbery arrests; and
24% of weapons arrests in 1998 (Ibid.).
- Juvenile victims are substantially less likely than adult victims
to have their violent crimes reported to the police or any other authority
(OJJDP November 1999).
- Though the juvenile male violent crime arrest rate expanded by 124%
from 1967 to 1996, the juvenile female arrest rate was nearly triple
that figure, 345% (FBI 1998, 288).
- While crimes committed by the very young often receive a great deal
of attention, in reality they account for very few arrests. Juvenile
males show progressively higher arrest rates as they age. Generally,
sixteen- and seventeen-year-old males account for the majority of juvenile
violent crime arrests (Ibid.).
- National Incident-based Reporting System data (of the Uniform
Crime Reports) from 1997 indicate that the victims of both male
and female juvenile crimes are predominantly other juveniles. When limited
to incidents when offenders are known, offenders tend to victimize juveniles
of their same sex (Ibid., 292).
- In 1997, U.S. juvenile courts handled an estimated 390,800 delinquency
cases in which the most serious charge was an offense against a person.
Person offenses include assault, robbery, rape, and homicide. The 1997
person offense caseload was 97% greater than in 1988 (Scahill May 2000).
- The majority of person offenses involved charges of simple assault
or aggravated assault. Together, these two offenses accounted for 81%
of all person offenses processed in 1997 (Ibid.).
- The number of people under eighteen years old who are sentenced to
adult state prison each year more than doubled between 1985 and 1997-from
3,400 to 7,400 (BJS 2000).
- Juveniles are more likely to be the victim of a violent crime in
the four hours following the end of the school day (roughly 2 p.m. to
6 p.m.) than at any other time of the day (National Center for Juvenile
Justice September 1999, 34).
- One in five juvenile arrestees carried a gun all or most of the time
- In a national random sample of male high school sophomores and juniors,
of those juveniles who had carried guns during the twelve months prior
to the survey, nearly half (43%) cited the perceived need for personal
protection as the primary reason for bearing arms (NIJ 1998).
- In September 1997, the Bureau of Justice Statistics released a Special
Report entitled Age Patterns of Victims of Serious Crimes. The
report found that vulnerability to violent crime victimization varies
across the age spectrum-victimization rates increase through teenage
years, crest at around age twenty, and steadily decrease throughout
adult years. This pattern, with some exceptions, exists across all race,
sex, and ethnic groups (Perkins 1997).
- Follow-up studies of children who experienced substantiated abuse
or neglect found that 26% of these children were later arrested as juveniles
Victims and the Juvenile Justice System: Recent Research
In 1997, the Office for Victims of Crime sponsored a project entitled
"Victims, Judges, and Partnerships for Juvenile Court Reform"
that was conducted by the Balanced and Restorative Justice (BARJ) Project
at Florida Atlantic University. The Project consisted of four regional
focus group discussions involving juvenile court judges, juvenile justice
practitioners, and victims of juvenile offenders, and identified nine general findings
about victims and the juvenile justice process:
- For virtually all victim participants, the juvenile court and justice
system experience had been predominately negative.
- Victim participants were nearly unanimous in concluding that there
was often a lack of respect for their dignity as human beings, little
in the way of acknowledgment of them as victims, and a perceived lack
of understanding among juvenile court professionals about the victimization
- All victim participants felt that crime victims should be considered,
and treated as, "clients" of the juvenile court.
- The general consensus among the judges was that the victim is indeed
a client of the juvenile justice system and has some role in
juvenile court. The distinction is a very important one because
in various jurisdictions the court may include numerous agencies and
staff ranging from the judge and clerical assistants to the judge, probation
and parole, victim services, and a range of special programs.
Variation in judges' views of victims as "clients" focused
around several themes, including the:
- Differences between property and violent crime victims.
- Point in the process at which a victim becomes a client.
- Status of victims as clients relative to offenders, families,
- Perceived motivation of victims to participate.
- Limits on what information should be available to victims.
- Perceived value of alternative, informal dispositional options
designed to actively include victims in decisionmaking.
- Perceived challenge to judicial impartiality presented by victim
involvement in the court process.
- Many judges expressed feelings of helplessness in responding to victims'
needs, due largely to a lack of coordination among the court, the prosecutor's
office, and probation services.
- Judges almost unanimously reported low rates of victim participation
in court processes and, in some groups, seemed to suggest that victims'
lack of motivation to participate, rather than the unfriendliness of
the court, was a primary factor in the lack of victim involvement. A
few judges felt that the victims did not belong in court because they
were sometimes emotionally incapable of rationally participating in
the process. On the other hand, some judges viewed court process and
management, rather than victim attitude and behavior, as the primary
sources of victim dissatisfaction.
- Many judges felt that victims were not adequately prepared for their
juvenile court experience.
- There was general consensus among the majority of judges that improvements
are needed in processes involving victim notification, participation,
victim impact statements, and restitution.
- Nearly all participants expressed appreciation for the opportunities
for helpful dialogue that were afforded by the focus group discussions,
along with the hope that this format could be further utilized on a
continuing basis on a more local level (Bazemore and Seymour 1998).
One of the greatest threats to individual and community safety in the
United States has been the astounding increase in juvenile crime and,
in particular, violent crimes committed by this nation's youth.
They murder, rape, rob, assault, steal, and commit arson at unprecedented
rates. They intimidate their family, their friends, and their communities.
They flood a juvenile justice system that is ill-equipped todeal with
the steady onslaught of arrests. And "they" are just
children, long termed "the future of America" whose futures
too often hold promise of despair, dysfunction, or even death by violent
In the period between 1987 and 1994, America witnessed large annual increases
in juvenile crime and victimization. Significantly and thankfully, this
trend has been altered, with serious violent crimes committed by juveniles
dropping 25% between 1994 and 1995. (Snyder, Sickmund, and Poe-Yamagata
- Between 1987 and 1994, the juvenile Violent Crime Index arrest rate
increased 70%. After years of increases, however, the rate declined
slightly in 1995, down 3% (Ibid.).
- A juvenile was an offender in 14% (or about 1,900) of all homicides
for which an offender was identified in 1995--with 2,300 juvenile offenders
implicated in these 1,900 homicides. However, after more than a decade
of increases, homicides by juveniles dropped substantially (17%) in
- In 1994, the rate of violent victimization of juveniles ages twelve
through seventeen was nearly three times that of adults (Ibid.).
- While the national downward trend in juvenile crime is heartening,
the National Center for Juvenile Justice found that while today's violent
youth commits the same number of violent acts as his or her predecessor
of fifteen years ago, what is different is that a greater proportion
of juveniles are committing violent acts. The question for policymakers
is: "Why are some kids committing violent acts today who would
not have done so fifteen years ago?" (Ibid.)
Among the many startling issues that confront crime victims is the realization
that the administration of juvenile justice differs greatly from
that of the criminal justice system. Since its inception in 1898, the
juvenile justice system has evolved based upon the underlying premise
that juveniles are different from adults and, as such, must be treated
differently. The focus has traditionally been on "the best interest
of the child." What has changed a century later is the realization
that "the best interest of the child offender" does not
have to exclude the best interest of the youthful offender's victim.
In the early 20th century, when formal distinctions were made between
the criminal and juvenile justice systems, it was believed that many youthful
offenders were errant children who were in need of simple guidance and
advice in order to resurrect them from a life of debauchery and crime.
During the early years following the turn of the century, juvenile crime
was often characterized by acts of truancy, petty thievery, or burglary.
As more and more youthful offenders were housed within jails or other
adult facilities, separate courts, detention facilities, rules, procedures,
and laws were created for juveniles. This initiative was undertaken by
social reformers for the purpose of protecting the children's welfare
and ensuring that they were offered opportunities for rehabilitation while
attempting to maintain some sense of protectionfor the community. Within
this context, the juvenile justice system was introduced into the American
legal and social service systems. Juvenile statutes were developed with
an emphasis on protecting and salvaging the wayward children of society.
In this separately designed justice process, every effort was made to
divert the child from the criminal justice system. Churches, community
groups, and social workers were enlisted to provide guidance and assistance
to the errant offender in modifying his or her behavior. Youthful offenders
were often required to serve periods of time under the supervision of
a truant or probation officer, with efforts made to provide necessary
assistance through non-institutional treatment. When institutionalization
was necessary, youthful offenders were housed within schools of industry
where attempts were made to provide them with vocational training.
Within this historical context, it is important for every victim advocate
to understand that there are many characteristics about the administration
of the juvenile justice system that are clearly distinct from the criminal
(adult) justice system. It is also important to note that these characteristics
are undergoing close scrutiny regarding their effectiveness in 21st century
society. Understanding these distinctions is crucial to providing support
and much needed information to victims of juvenile offenders and their
Characteristics Unique to Juvenile Justice
There are a variety of significant differences between America's juvenile
justice and criminal justice systems. While these differences are enumerated
throughout this chapter, it is helpful to know and understand differences
in terminology, as depicted in the following chart:
Criminal Justice System
Juvenile Justice System
Petition for a hearing
Being "found guilty"
Getting locked up
It is important that victim advocates become familiar with the statutory
provisions, procedural operation, and terminology of the juvenile justice
system within their respective jurisdictions. Victim service providers
can not only serve to support the victim or victim's family, but also
act to advocate for change where necessary.
In addition, victims of juvenile offenders share many unique characteristics,
due in large part to the lack of rights and services afforded to them
by juvenile justice agencies throughout the United States. While 30,000
statutes have been passed that designate and enforce crime victims' rights
in America, a limited number of these applies to victims of juvenile offenders.
Such omissions create tremendous hardships for individuals who are victimized
by adolescents and children.
Characteristics unique to victims of juvenile offender include:
- The shock, vulnerability, and trauma victims endure may be increased
due to the age of the child offender. Most people still want
to believe that children are not capable of committing criminal acts,
especially those involving violence.
- The victim's vulnerability may be increased when the victim knows
the juvenile offender. Relationships that have relied on mutual
friendship, trust, and respect are often severed.
- Victims of juvenile offenders may "generalize" about people
who remind them of the perpetrator. This can affect their lack of trust
in, and tendency to avoid situations involving, other children.
- Victims sometimes report feeling "embarrassed" that they
were hurt by a child, since adults are expected to have a semblance
of "control" over and command respect from children.
- While many victims report increased fear following victimization
by a youthful offender, they are not always likely to tell helping professionals
that they are afraid, or would like protective measures, for fear of
being perceived as "weak" or "irrational."
- When children victimize other children, it often has detrimental
effects on those individuals who know both the victim and offender such
as their families, neighbors, school staff, and classmates.
- Historically, victims of juvenile offenders have had limited participatory
rights in the juvenile justice process. The lack of information about
the case, combined with their inability to participate in hearings and
activities related to the outcome of the case, can compound victim trauma.
- Confidentiality protections for juvenile offenders also contribute
to victims' frustration about getting information relevant to their
- The likelihood of receiving full restitution is believed to decrease
with the age of the offender. With limited work opportunities, few children
have financial resources to fulfill their restitution obligations, and
victims are often left with financial losses as a result of delinquent
acts committed against them.
- While victim services in juvenile court and juvenile probation agencies
are increasing, they are still much more limited than those available
in the criminal justice system.
- Most trauma response protocols have been developed based upon research
of victims of adult, criminal offenders. While most of these responses
are appropriate for victims of juvenile offenders, more research is
needed to develop responses that are specific to the unique needs
and circumstances of victims of juvenile offenders.
- Training and cross-training opportunities among system- and
community-based victim advocates and juvenile justice professionals
have been somewhat limited. While such forums are increasing, there
is still a need for consistent and comprehensive training and networking
among these key stakeholders in providing services to victims of juvenile
offenders (Seymour et al. 1998).
Five areas of change have emerged as states passed laws designed to crack
down on juvenile crime. These laws generally involve expanded eligibility
for criminal court processing and adult correctional sanctioning, and
reduced confidentiality protections for a subset of juvenile offenders.
Between 1992 and 1997, all but three states changed laws in one or more
of the following areas:
- Transfer provisions. Laws made it easier to transfer juvenile
offenders from the juvenile justice system to the criminal justice system
- Sentencing authority. Laws gave criminal and juvenile courts
expanded sentencing options (31 states).
- Confidentiality. Laws modified or removed traditional juvenile
court confidentiality provisions by making records and proceedings more
open (47 states).
In addition to these areas, there was change relating to:
- Victims' rights. Laws increased the role of victims of juvenile
crime in the juvenile justice process (22 states).
- Correctional programming. As a result of new transfer and
sentencing laws, adult and juvenile correctional administrators developed
The 1980s and 1990s have seen significant change in terms of treating
more juvenile offenders as criminals. Recently, states have been attempting
to strike a balance in their juvenile justice systems among system and
offender accountability, offender competency development, and community
protection. Many states have added to the purpose clauses of their juvenile
codes phrases such as:
- Hold juveniles accountable for criminal behavior.
- Provide effective deterrents.
- Protect the public from criminal activity.
- Balance attention to offenders, victims, and the community.
- Impose punishment consistent with the seriousness of the crime (OJJDP
Juvenile Justice Procedures
In most states, the juvenile justice system is governed by specially
created statutes generally associated with the administration of social
welfare or programming. As such, these statutes are separate from the
adult criminal justice statutes and contain significant differences in
the provisions for administering justice. Those procedural differences
involve defining the youthful offender, diversions from incarceration,
probation, community treatment, detention facilities, parole or release
hearings, and community supervision.
AGE OF YOUTHFUL OFFENDERS RELEVANT TO JUVENILE JUSTICE
States differ in their definition of youthful offenders who fall under
the jurisdiction of and can be governed by juvenile justice statutes:
- Historically, most juvenile offenders were generally described as
those persons under the age of eighteen.
- In some states, provisions mandated that the court could make a finding
that a youthful offender over the age of eighteen may be tried as a
juvenile if the court found that the offender or offenses showed evidence
that they lacked in maturity or social development.
- Conversely, other states provided that offenders could be tried as
adults when circumstances demonstrated that the offense and the offender
exhibited a great degree of criminal sophistication, or the nature of
the offense was so heinous that incarceration in a prison setting was
It is this latter trend that has advanced in the United States during
the past decade, with an increasing number of states enacting statutes
that provide for youthful offenders to be tried as adults. Many states
have enacted statutes that provide that fourteen- to seventeen-year-old
offenders can be tried and convicted as adults for serious offenses such
as murder, rape, and crimes involving weapons. Some states, such as Missouri,
have no age limitations to remand juveniles to adult criminal courts.
One other factor involving age pertains to the period of time a youthful
offender can be incarcerated. Many states incarcerate juvenile offenders
for a period of up to no more than the age of twenty-five. Others have
enacted statutes that provide for the transfer of serious youthful offenders
after a given age to the adult penal system to finish the remainder of
their designated period of incarceration. Again, it is important for the
advocate to become familiar with the various provisions of local statutes
as they pertain to age and the juvenile justice systems as they vary greatly
from state to state.
Within the juvenile justice system, most states employ a progressive array
of sanctions for juvenile offenders. Among these sanctions are the use
of diversionary practices aimed at averting the juvenile justice system
and redirecting youthful offenders from their delinquent activity. These
diversionary opportunities are generally characterized by programs such
as parental and child counseling, police youth activities, community service,
drug prevention education, and informal probation; they are generally
used with first-time, non-violent offenders.
Every attempt is made to engage juvenile offenders in some endeavor that
will serve to provide information regarding the consequences of their
actions, while redirecting their "at-risk" behavior into a more
positive direction. Often these programs will impose restitution as a
provision of diversion. Victims should understand that this sanction is
the earliest form of intervention used with first-time offenders. In addition,
victims should seek input into any decision to divert a case.
Probation is the sanction used most often in both criminal and juvenile
justice cases. This sanction of community supervision is imposed by the
juvenile court. Probation is generally characterized by requirements,
known as "terms and conditions of probation," which delineate
expected behavior that the probationer must adhere to for a given period
of time. Terms and conditions can include educational programs (e.g.,
GED), community service, counseling programs, and participation in alcohol/other
drug counseling programs. Terms and conditions can also be imposed that
restrict the offender from contacting the victim or from harassing the
victim in any way. Restitution can also be ordered as a term of probation.
Differing from diversion, the probationer must have regular contact with
a probation officer to demonstrate compliance with conditions of probation.
Often, juvenile courts will commit offenders to community treatment programs.
Such residential counseling centers and drug treatment programs are designed
to hold offenders accountable while helping them learn the life skills
necessary to re-integrate into society. The programs may be located in
the local community or within adjoining jurisdictions or states.
YOUTH DETENTION FACILITIES
With the exception of serious, habitual, and violent offenders, youth
detention facilities are generally considered the disposition of last
resort for young offenders within the juvenile justice system. Usually
operated by state government or private corporations that enter into contractual
agreements with jurisdictions, the facilities are the modern day counterparts
of the schools of industry that emerged after the turn of the century.
The detention facilities of today operate using a combination of contemporary
correctional and treatment programs that differ from those within adult
institutions. Most continue to operate within a framework of rehabilitation,
providing educational and vocational training within an institutional
setting. The changing profile of the more violent, less responsive, juvenile
offender has resulted in a greater emphasis upon operating secure facilities
with increased attention to incarceration and safety within the institution.
Most states are also experiencing problems with overcrowding of facilities,
which further impedes rehabilitation efforts.
It is important for advocates and victims alike to understand the differences
associated with the operation and administration of youth detention facilitates.
Most markedly, youthful offenders are generally required to serve shorter
sentences within such facilities than their adult counterparts serve in
prison. Finally, it is important for victims to realize that most youthful
offenders are eventually returned to the community.
Many states are enacting statutes or administrative policies that afford
victims opportunities to participate in juvenile parole hearings. In determining
whether an individual should be released from custody, each juvenile parole
board considers many factors, including the offender's progress toward
educational or vocational goals and his or her overall behavior while
incarcerated. In addition, the juvenile paroling authority considers the
seriousness of the original offense for which the person was incarcerated,
the overall impact upon his or her release back into the community, and
the youthful offender's financial/legal obligations, including victim
restitution. This information is included in victim impact statements,
among other resources. While many states still restrict such statements
at juvenile parole hearings, they are increasingly being accepted as an
important part of a comprehensive parole eligibility assessment.
Similar to probation in its design and functioning, parole supervision
(also called "aftercare") is granted to juveniles who are released
after having served a period of institutionalized detention or incarceration.
Parole officers can be a valuable asset to victim service providers in
ensuring that youthful offenders refrain from contacting or harassing
the victim in any way and fulfill their court-ordered restitution obligations.
Generally, when a person successfully completes a period of parole or
aftercare supervision, he or she is discharged from the jurisdiction of
Victims' Rights in Juvenile Cases
As noted earlier in this chapter, the profile and nature of juvenile
criminal activity have changed drastically during the past two decades.
In light of the emerging seriousness of crimes now committed by juveniles,
and because of the advancement of victims' rights, many states are changing
existing statutes to allow victim access to information about the offender's
status. It is important that victim service providers have knowledge of
these confidentiality constraints, and be able to explain them sufficiently
to victims and their families.
- In many states, victims are now able to obtain information regarding
the status of the proceedings, the disposition of the hearing and the
conditions under which a juvenile is granted probation or detained in
a juvenile institution.
- In an increasing number of states, victims and their families are
able to attend previously closed juvenile court proceedings.
- Information necessary to obtain restitution, file civil suits, or
monitor the location and whereabouts of the offender is also increasingly
available in many jurisdictions.
- The federal constitutional amendment introduced by the U.S. Congress
in 1996 and its proposed broad participatory rights apply to violent
crimes committed by juvenile, as well as adult, offenders.
Victim service providers must be aware, however, that many of these new
victims' rights laws are applied only "upon request from the victim."
It is crucial that victims of juvenile offenders are informed and fully
aware of their rights in each state, in order to access them.
JUVENILE OFFENDER CONFIDENTIALITY
Most states have included provisions within their juvenile justice statutes
that mandate confidentiality for the juvenile offender. These laws were
enacted to avoid stigmatizing the youthful offender with every expectation
that such information would serve only to impede rehabilitative efforts.
Consequently, information regarding the name and age of the offender is
often unavailable to the victim from law enforcement and juvenile court
Juvenile court proceedings are often confidential and generally exclude
all persons other than court personnel from the actual hearing. In most
states, the records of the juvenile court proceedings are sealed after
the offender has reached adulthood, and the dispositions of juvenile cases
cannot be considered in any future criminal proceedings as an adult.
However, recent public policy trends give certain organizations and individuals
(including victims) access to juvenile information and records. Some states
allow victims access to specific information about the status of the case
and the offender, while excluding the general public from such access.
Others make most information about juveniles a matter of public record.
Victim service providers must be familiar with confidentiality laws pertaining
to youthful offenders as they affect crime victims' rights to receive
notification; be protected from intimidation, harassment, orharm; make
victim impact statements; and seek restitution. In particular, the distinctions
between victims' rights to information in felony versus lower-level
cases, as well as the victim's duty to request the implementation
of his or her rights, should be identified.
Victims' rights to notification in the juvenile justice system vary considerably.
Recognizing that there are fifty-eight possible points of notification
to victims in general (NCVC 1998), victim advocates should determine the
specific types of notification that victims of juvenile offenders are
entitled to in their states.
The National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges recommends that
juvenile justice agencies develop policies and procedures to guide their
victim notification processes. Since policies and procedures are often
guided by state statutes, they should be developed in accordance with
The following ten issues (Seymour et al. 1998) should be considered when
developing policies and procedures to guide victim notification in juvenile
1. How do victims know they are entitled to notification of certain activities
and hearings in juvenile court?
- Do specific agencies have authorities or mandates to notify victims
of key proceedings, rights, or other activities?
- Are orientation or educational resources provided that describe notification
rights? If so, by which agencies are they provided?
2. Which agencies and/or personnel are responsible for notifying victims
of key activities and proceedings in juvenile court?
- Law enforcement.
- Court officials.
- Victim advocates.
- Probation departments.
- Juvenile parole board victim advocates.
3. Which types of victims (and witnesses) are entitled to notification
- All victims.
- Only violent crime victims.
- Only sex crimes.
- All witnesses.
- Only witnesses to violent crimes.
4. Are individuals other than the immediate, "direct" victim
eligible for notification?
- Immediate family.
- Extended family.
- Close friends.
- Victim's designated representatives.
- Law enforcement officials.
- Juvenile court judge.
- Probation departments.
- Community (particularly with sex offenses).
5. Do victims qualify for notification by law, by agency policy, by judge's
order, or by a combination of any of these?
6. How do victims enroll in notification programs to receive notice of
key activities and proceedings?
- Which juvenile justice professionals or criminal justice agencies
are responsible for victim enrollment?
- Are notification requests accepted orally, in writing, and/or on
specified forms developed specifically for this purpose?
7. What types of notification are victims entitled to?
8. Are there any requirements relevant to the timing of victim notification?
9. Are victims' requests for notification kept confidential?
- From juvenile offenders?
- From defense counsel?
- Maintained in separate, confidential section of the case file?
10. Do victims have any recourse if notification, as required by statute,
does not occur?
- If so, what are the measures of recourse?
VICTIM PROTECTION FROM INTIMIDATION, HARASSMENT, OR HARM
Many victims describe a "changed view of the world" that they
directly attribute to their victimization. In a "just world,"
bad things should not happen to good people; juvenile victimization drastically
changes this perception. Offender confidentiality can exaggerate the victim's
feeling of fear and vulnerability to further harm.
Regardless of the severity of the juvenile offense, many victims identify
common reactions that result from their victimization, including:
- Shock that such a thing could even happen.
- Anger at the offender, the crime, and even themselves and others
(the latter often resulting from misplaced blame).
- Anger at a juvenile justice system that is not equipped or able to
sentence violent juvenile offenders to penalties that reflect the seriousness
of their crimes.
- Loss of trust in relationships and sometimes a loss of trust in one's
Many victims of juvenile offenders report a fear that such a terrible
thing could happen to them again. They feel more vulnerable than before.
They often articulate that children should not be capable of committing
offenses that hurt the property and person of others. They question why
they, "the adults," were not able to prevent the offense from
occurring in the first place. Victims of juvenile offenders may develop
a tendency to generalize about all youth, resulting in increased vulnerability
and irrational feelings about teenagers and children in general.
There are usually two types of distinct fears that victims might exhibit:
- Actual fears, which result from direct threats to them or
their loved ones by the alleged or adjudicated perpetrator, or his or
her family and/or friends.
- Perceived fears, which result from feelings of helplessness,
loss of control, and trauma related to being victimized.
Assessing victims' fears. Victims of youthful offenders
do not always articulate their fears to authorities, or even to persons
close to them because they belong to the same peer group. In juvenile
cases, this tendency may be exacerbated by feelings that it is not rational
to be afraid of a child. They may feel foolish or even ashamed that they
are afraid for themselves, or often for the safety of those they love
(including family members and friends).
Any juvenile justice professionals involved in the investigation or adjudication
of a case should ask victims three key questions to assess their level
of actual or perceived fear:
- Are you afraid?
- (If yes) Is there anything specific that has happened to you that
makes you feel afraid such as direct threats, intimidation, or harassment?
- Can you suggest anything that will make you and your loved ones feel
It is important that these questions be asked consistently by law enforcement,
prosecutors, victim advocates, judges, and probation officers. The victim's
answers will help authorities develop a response that meets the needs
of the victim and promotes solutions that will make the victim feel a
greater sense of safety and security.
Promoting safety and security for victims. Many jurisdictions
have laws and agency policies that offer victims the right to protection
from intimidation or harassment by the alleged or adjudicated offender.
Included among such laws and policies are:
- A general statement of a victim's right to protection (this is often
included in a state's Victims' Bill of Rights and/or state-level constitutional
- The right for victims to be informed of protection measures available
to them. This right is usually implemented by law enforcement, juvenile
prosecutors, court-based victim advocates, and/or probation officers.
- The denial of pre-adjudication release to juvenile offenders who
pose a threat to the victim, or to the community. Such actions are usually
taken in cases involving serious, violent, and/or habitual offenders.
- "No contact" orders that can or must be a condition of
any release of the juvenile offender.
- Notification to the victim regarding the status of the case, as well
as the offender, that can help the victim make informed decisions regarding
- Designation of waiting areas in the court house that keep the victim
and alleged/adjudicated offender separate by sight and sound.
- Options for recourse by victims who feel they are being intimidated
or harassed, or will be harmed, by the juvenile offender and/or his
family or friends.
- There are also policies and programs that juvenile courts can consider
to promote victim safety. While all of these approaches have been utilized
for years in the criminal justice system, they are applicable to cases
involving juvenile offenders when their victims express fear for their
Guidelines for victims who are fearful. Any victim who
expresses fear of contact and/or retaliation by the youthful offender
should be provided with the following information:
- Their rights to protective measures, including protective orders
issues by the juvenile court.
- The name and contact information for a juvenile justice or law enforcement
official who should be notified of any violations.
- The importance of dialing "911" in cases of emergency,
or in unwanted contacts or offenses that occur after working hours.
- Referrals to victim assistance programs, victim support groups, or
mental health counseling that can help victims cope with their trauma
and fear. (Seymour et al. 1998)
VICTIM IMPACT STATEMENTS
Increasingly, victims of juvenile offenders are given the opportunity
to submit or make statements prior to dispositions in juvenile court and
at juvenile parole board hearings. Victim impact statements (VIS) vary
in their method of presentation and format based upon each state's statutory
provisions. Generally, victims of juvenile offenders are provided with
an opportunity to submit a written statement for inclusion in the probation
report to be read by the court prior to the rendering of a disposition.
In other instances, victims may appear in court or at parole board hearings
and make statements directly (allocution), and/or submit audio or video
recordings for consideration by the court and/or juvenile parole board.
Clearly, victims value and appreciate involvement and a role as "active
participants" in juvenile justice processes that are afforded through
the VIS process. VIS provide the court with an accurate assessment of
the psychological, physical, and financial harm caused to victims, which
can be particularly helpful in plea negotiations. VIS also help juvenile
paroling authorities understand whether or not the victim has endured
psychic trauma, financial losses, and/or physical challenges as a direct
result of the juvenile offender's actions.
In addition to validating the victim's voice as a meaningful component
of juvenile justice processes, VIS offer the juvenile justice system vital
information that can be helpful in adjudications, such as input related
- Other financial losses, such as payment for medical bills and counseling,
insurance (payment of deductibles and increases in premiums resulting
from crimes), and the replacement value of stolen or damaged property.
- Measures requested by victims to promote their safety, such as protective
or "no contact" orders, supervised visitation, and special
conditions of probation.
- Desire by victims to participate in victim/offender programs or to
require the youthful offender to participate in alternative sentencing
programs such as victim impact panels, circle sentencing, mediation/dialogue,
conciliation, and/or victim awareness classes.
- Victim recommendations for offender treatment, including alcohol
and other substance abuse, sex offender, and anger management.
- Community service, particularly service that directly benefits the
victim or a cause of his or her choice (often called "restorative
community service") (Seymour 1998).
Restitution, as described in other chapters contained in this text, is
sometimes available to victims of crime. The requirement of the payment
of restitution to a victim is an extremely effective tool to hold youthful
offenders accountable. Court-imposed or diversionary agreements of restitution
are very constructive forms of rehabilitation. Youthful offenders can
learn much about the impact of their crime by being required to make monthly
payments in any amount. Such a payment schedule adds a realistic and constant
reminder of the financial impact that their actions had upon the victim.
In addition, restitution provides the offender with an opportunity to
repay the victim and attempt to "right the wrongs" they have
committed against another.
Restitution programs are faced with many difficulties, from administration
to the inability or refusal of offenders to pay. These are even more pronounced
in juvenile restitution programs. This should not deter officials from
seeking and enforcing juvenile restitution. When juvenile justice officials
express concerns that "a youthful offender cannot afford to pay restitution,"
the fact that "few victims can afford to pay for their losses resulting
from the juvenile offense" should also be addressed.
Community restitution is also an effective form of rehabilitation and
often proves satisfactory to victims as a disposition in their case. Offenders
are required to perform some meaningful community service and submit to
drug testing and counseling to satisfy the terms and conditions of diversion
or probation. This type of activity often serves to provide the youthful
offender with some sense of social responsibility while repaying society
and the victim for the negative impact of their criminal activity. In
some communities, victims are allowed to offer input into the type of
community restitution that their youthful offender must complete, including
direct service to the victim or to an organization or charity of the victim's
Restitution, in general, offers a significant measure to hold youthful
offenders accountable. When financial/legal obligations are not fulfilled
or are ignored, the victim ultimately and unwillingly becomes accountable
for his or her losses that were caused by another's actions.
As more states and jurisdictions move toward a restorative justice approach
to juvenile crime and victimization, dispositions and conditions of community
supervision often involve victim/offender programming. Among the two most
widely utilized programming approaches are victim impact panels and victim/offender
mediation (also called "dialogue" or "offender accountability
VICTIM IMPACT PANELS
An increasing number of victims and surviving family members have begun
to participate in victim impact panels with juvenile offenders, both in
institutional and non-institutional settings. Generally guided by victim
service providers or organizations, victims of crime address groups of
youthful offenders, describing to them the impact of crime upon their
lives. Such panels are conducted for groups ranging from first-time offenders
to those serving periods of incarceration. The panels serve as a form
of empowerment to participating victims, as they afford them opportunities
to symbolically confront and educate a community of offenders whose behavior
represents that which caused them injury or personal suffering. For the
offender, victims provide some much needed insight into the impact of
their criminal behavior in human terms. Research published by MADD National
Office in 1995 shows significant benefits for both victims and offenders.
Victim-offender mediation programs involve face-to-face meetings, in the
presence of a trained mediator, between an individual who has been victimized
by a crime and the perpetrator of that crime. Victim-offender mediation
programs operate within the context of the criminal justice system, rather
than in the civil courts. Historically, these programs have been instituted
successfully within the juvenile justice system, most significantly in
cases involving property offenses. The purpose of such meetings is to
provide the victim with an opportunity to gain insight into the reasons
why an offender committed the crime, and to confront that offender with
the impact of the crime. The meetings also provide the offender with information
regarding the real life human consequences of his or her actions. Thesemeetings
often result in agreements in which juvenile offenders perform some restitution-related
service directly for the victim and agrees to complete treatment, education,
or vocational programming.
Victim-offender programs also focus on the need to express feelings and
on greater understanding of the event and of each other. Victim participation
in any mediation or conciliation programs must be strictly voluntary.
Great caution must be taken to avoid the specter of even the most subtle,
unintended coercion of victims to participate.
OTHER CREATIVE DISPOSITIONS IN JUVENILE JUSTICE
The National Center for Juvenile and Family Court Judges has identified
several creative dispositions that involve and serve victims and the community.
These approaches hold youthful offenders accountable for their actions
in measures that are meaningful while, at the same time, provide activities
that offer opportunities for learning and competency development:
- Providing youthful offenders with opportunities for restorative community
- The victim directly, upon request and with supervision.
- A charity, cause or public work service of the victim's choice
- An organization that provides support and assistance to victims,
i.e., cutting red ribbons for Mothers Against Drunk Driving's public
awareness campaigns, helping to organize or staff activities for
National Crime Victims' Rights Week in April, providing volunteer
hours for victim-related fund raisers, etc.
- Helping to build homes, victim service agencies, or other buildings
that benefit individuals and/or the community, such as Habitat for Humanity
or domestic violence shelters.
- Participating in Youth Court programs (a full curriculum and program
development manual is available from the American Probation and Parole
- Writing a letter of apology to the victim of the offense (if the
victim does not request nor want an apology, the letter can still be
placed in the youthful offender's case file).
- Participating in family group conferencing, a process similar to
mediation but involving the family of the youth, as well as the family
of the victim.
- In shoplifting and larceny cases, attending a Merchant Accountability
Board to hear from store owners about how shoplifting affects their
businesses, i.e., higher costs for consumers, greater restrictions for
youthful shoppers, and lack of trust (utilizing the promising practice
developed in Deschutes County [Bend] Oregon).
- Working with the probation or detention official to complete an "Offender
Accountability Assessment" that requires youthful offenders to
assess who they are responsible to and what they need to be
held accountable for, as a result of their offense(s), prior
to completing the traditional "needs assessment."
- In property cases, meeting with a panel of (or individual) insurance
adjustors to dispel myths related to the common excuse that "s/he
had insurance" and to better understand that when insurance has
to cover burglaries and larcenies, collective rates rise, victims must
pay deductibles and often higherinsurance rates, and the time to file
claims can be exorbitant. Insurance adjustors can also have youthful
offenders fill out insurance claim forms--an arduous task, to say the
least--to help them understand the time and frustration many victims
endure when dealing with insurance agencies.
- Participating in supervised work crews that provide crime scene cleanup
services to victims of business and household burglaries.
- Participating in supervised work crews that conduct "safety
checks" for vulnerable citizens such as senior citizens and people
with disabilities to increase personal safety measures at their homes
by replacing locks, increasing lighting, trimming bushes by windows,
joining a Neighborhood Watch Program, developing a safety plan, etc.
- Participating in paid work service programs that develop the offender's
work and socialization skills, contribute to either direct victim restitution
or a collective restitution fund that reimburses victims for losses
related to juvenile crimes, and improves the community (such as community
recycling programs) (Seymour et al. 1998).
Victim Services in Juvenile Court
A significant trend in the 1990s has been the development of victim assistance
programs within juvenile courts. Similar to victim/witness programs in
the criminal justice system, these offices provide a wide range of information,
supportive services, advocacy, and referrals to victims of youthful offenders.
The National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (Tofall 1998)
has identified nine critical elements that comprise a comprehensive victim
service program within the juvenile justice system:
1. A complete understanding of the mandates of the statutes applicable
in the state.
- Victim rights statute.
- Juvenile code/statute and confidentiality restrictions.
- Related statutes: child orders of protection, etc.
2. A complete understanding of the operations of juvenile/family court.
- Division of responsibilities within the court system.
- Roles and responsibilities of court personnel.
- Accessing case information within the system.
3. Knowledge of what aspects of the statute are currently being met and
by whom? Basic victims' rights should include:
- Explanation of the juvenile justice system.
- Notification of hearings/proceedings.
- Establishment of a safe victim waiting room.
- Submission of a written or oral victim impact statement.
- Orders of restitution.
- Measures of victim protection.
4. Identification of personnel in the system who support the precepts
of victims' rights in conjunction with the protections to be afforded
to juvenile offenders.
- Building relationships based upon an understanding of victimization.
- Identifying specific concerns or reservations staff may have regarding
implementation of victim rights.
5. Determination of the role of victim service professionals within the
- Staff member of the juvenile justice system (assigned position).
- Contracted individual whose responsibilities and involvement in court
cases is well-defined; what protection is necessary for juvenile confidentiality
6. Referral of victims to victim service professionals.
- Review of police reports submitted with admission of juvenile offender
to detention facility.
- Referral of victims by court personnel (utilizing referral form).
- Self-referral by victims.
- Referral of victims from community resources.
7. Development of services to be provided to victims and subsequent training
to be provided to juvenile court staff:
- Explanation of the juvenile court process, terminology and procedures,
and roles of various court staff.
- Crisis intervention, supportive counseling relevant to victimization
- Availability of Crime Victims' Compensation.
- Accessing community resources through networking (counseling, etc.)
and subsequent referral, as appropriate.
- Preparing and accompanying victims to hearings.
- Assisting with the completion of victim impact statements.
- Providing notification of all court dates (if required).
- Advocating for victims with law enforcement agencies in order to
obtain report information for the victim and to encourage the law enforcement
agency to refer the case to the court.
- Accompanying victims to line-ups held in detention facility.
- Establishing protocol for assisting families in which the victimization
is sibling on sibling.
- Providing assistance with restitution information.
- Notification of disposition of case.
8. Participation on various committees within the juvenile justice system
when victim assistance is pertinent to the assignment of that committee.
- Public relations/community education.
- Training committees (e.g., police, court personnel, etc.).
- Any protocol committees involving victim-related issues (notification
of release from secured facility, victim/offender mediation, etc.).
9. Program development and program evaluation.
- Determine source(s) of funding for program.
- Development of survey for court personnel feedback.
- Develop protocol for involving volunteers/student interns as victim
DEVELOPING A COORDINATED RESPONSE TO VICTIMS IN THE JUVENILE
(This section is derived from the "Developing a Coordinated Response"
chapter of The Juvenile Court Response to Victims of Juvenile Offenders
training manual, published in 1998 by the National Council of Juvenile
and Family Court Judges, with support from the Office for Victims of Crime.)
While the roles and responsibilities of juvenile justice and allied practitioners
in providing victim assistance vary depending upon a jurisdiction's laws,
as well as an agency's policies, programs, and staff resources, there
are some general roles that comprise core victim services. Every practitioner
should be capable of providing victims with basic information about their
rights and referrals to programs and services that can assist them. In
addition, every agency/organization involved in a coordinated response
should provide specific contact information to victims about individuals
who can assist them.
The major roles and responsibilities of key stakeholders--in the juvenile
justice system, the private sector at the local level, and the state level
- Responding to the scene of the offense.
- Interviewing victims and witnesses.
- Completing an initial offense report.
- Conducting investigations into offenses.
- Informing victims about how to access information about the status
of their case.
- Providing victims with information about victim compensation in relevant
- Providing victims with information about and referrals to services
that can assist them.
- Providing victims with information about resources for crime scene
cleanup and personal security in property offenses.
- Accompanying victims who need medical attention to the hospital and/or
emergency medical services.
- Providing name, badge number, and contact information for future
Juvenile court prosecutors.
- Contacting victims and witnesses about the status of the case and
procedures/hearings in which they have the right to participate, or
to receive information.
- Interviewing victims who are witnesses in a case.
- Providing information about the juvenile court/juvenile justice process.
- Providing information about victims' rights, i.e., notification,
input, information, restitution and protection.
- Providing victims with information about victim compensation in relevant
- Seeking waiting areas in court settings that keep victims/witnesses
separate by sight and sound from juvenile offenders prior to their testifying.
- Providing information about and guidance in completing victim impact
- Providing information about and guidance in securing restitution
- Notifying victims about the outcome of their cases.
Juvenile court administrators.
- Maintaining juvenile court dockets.
- In some cases, informing victims of proceedings at which they are
needed as a witness, or at which they have the right to participate.
- Notifying victims of case continuances in a timely manner (often
- Seeking waiting areas in court settings that keep victims/witnesses
separate by sight and sound from juvenile offenders prior to their testifying.
- Maintaining a secure court room environment that contributes to victim
- In some jurisdictions, monitoring the collection and disbursement
of victim restitution.
Juvenile court judges.
- Exercising leadership to ensure that victims' rights are honored.
- When possible, establishing a victim services program or unit.
- Seeking separate waiting areas for victims and witnesses prior to
- Maintaining a secure courtroom environment that contributes to victim
- Determining whether or not a victim has any concerns for his or her
- Reviewing victim impact statements for disposition decisions.
- Providing victims with information about options available to them,
as well as potential programs and services available to juvenile offenders.
- Conducting pre-disposition investigations, including an assessment
of the impact of the offense on victims (victim impact statements).
- Determining victims' losses in order to make recommendations for
- Providing victims with information about victim compensation in relevant
- Assessing any victims' needs related to personal safety and protection.
- Informing victims about opportunities for victim/offender programming,
including mediation (offender accountability meetings), family group
conferencing and victim impact panels or classes.
- Sponsoring programming that holds youthful offenders accountable
and increases their awareness of the impact their offenses have on their
victims, their own families, their communities, and themselves.
- Assessing any victims' needs related to personal safety and protection.
- Notifying victims of potential release dates and hearings.
- Obtaining victim input (through victim impact statements) into such
- Securing victim input into conditions of a youthful offender's release.
Juvenile justice system-based victim advocates.
- Supporting any/all of the roles and responsibilities noted above.
- Providing victims with information about their rights, as well as
- Serving as the agency's liaison to allied justice agencies and community-based
victim service programs.
Community-based victim service providers.
- Providing emergency response to crime scenes.
- Providing victims with information about victim compensation.
- Informing victims of available rights and services to assist them.
- Conducting support groups to help victims cope with emotional and
- Providing counseling and supportive services.
- Providing advocacy in dealing with the news media (in high profile
- Serving as the victim's liaison to juvenile justice-based agencies
and victim service programs.
Community organizations that provide supportive services.
- Providing emergency assistance related to personal security and finances
such as crime scene repair crews, funding to repair locks and broken
- Providing information about available services in both the public
and private sectors.
- Sponsoring victim/offender mediation and family group conferencing.
- Sponsoring victim support groups.
Mental health professionals.
- Providing mental health counseling.
- Facilitating victim support groups.
- Providing victims with written information and resources to help
them understand what they are going through in the aftermath of the
County- or city-level victim service coalitions.
- Coordinating an effective community-wide response to victims of crime.
- Coordinating community outreach and public education about rights
and services for victims of juvenile offenders.
- Identifying and filling "gaps" in service delivery to victims.
- Training juvenile justice, criminal justice, and allied professional
and volunteer agencies about victims' rights and needs.
- Coordinating cross-training efforts among key community stakeholders.
State victim compensation programs.
- Providing financial remuneration to victims of personal crimes (eligibility
requirements vary from state to state).
- In some states, securing "restitution" from detained youth
that is dedicated to the state's general victim compensation fund.
State Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) administrators.
- Overseeing funding, training, and other resources for local victim
- Encouraging and supporting collaborative efforts that benefit victims
State-level victim service coalitions.
- Collaborating on the implementation of laws and policies that improve
rights and services for all victims of crime.
- Sponsoring state-level opportunities for training victim service
providers and allied justice professionals.
- Generating public awareness about the availability of services and
the enforcement of rights specific to victims of juvenile offenders.
Initiatives That Promote Victims' Rights and Services Within The Juvenile Justice System
Juvenile Accountability Incentive Block Grants Program (JAIBG).
The Juvenile Accountability Incentive Block Grants program was created
in 1998 by Congress to promote greater accountability in the juvenile
justice system. The underlying supposition is that young people, their
families, and the juvenile justice system must be accountable for improving
the quality of life in every community.
The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), one
of five program bureaus in the Office of Justice Programs (OJP), has been
delegated the authority to administer the JAIBG program. The law that
created it authorizes the Attorney General to provide grants to the states
to strengthen policies, programs, and administrative systems that foster
safer communities. This includes providing support for juvenile facilities,
probation officers, prosecutors and public defenders, pretrial services,
juvenile gun and drug courts, and controlled substance testing. JAIBG
also supports interagency information-sharing programs that enable the
juvenile and criminal justice systems, schools, and social services agencies
to make informed decisions regarding the early identification, control,
supervision, and treatment of juveniles who repeatedly commit serious
or violent delinquent acts. Finally, JAIBG authorizes programs that use
law enforcement to protect school personnel and students from drug, gang,
and youth violence (OJJDP 1999).
In fiscal year 1998, $250 million was appropriated for the JAIBG program.
Appropriations will again be made in FY 1999 (Wilson 1999).
Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994.
The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 created new
federal crime provisions for juvenile offenders. The following is a summary
of these provisions:
The Act amended current federal law to permit adult prosecution of 13-
to 14-year-olds charged with certain crimes of violence, including robbery
or aggravated sexual abuse committed with a firearm. It should be noted
that this provision does not apply to offenses committed by Indian juveniles
in Indian Country if the jurisdiction for the offense is solely within
Indian Country. However, exceptions to this can occur if the tribe elects
to subject the tribe to the new provision under the Act.
In addition, the Act adds several serious firearms offenses to prosecuting
juvenile offenders as adults. For example, in determining whether a juvenile
should be tried as an adult, the Act requires courts to consider the extent
to which the juvenile played a leadership role in an organization, or
otherwise influenced others to take part in criminal activities, involving
the use of, or distribution of, firearms or drugs.
Firearm safety. The 1994 Violent Crime Control Act establishes
a federal offense when juveniles under 18 years of age knowingly possess
a handgun or handgun ammunition.
In addition the Act establishes that:
- It is unlawful to transfer a handgun or handgun ammunition to a person
the transferor knows or has reasonable cause to believe is under eighteen
years of age.
- There are certain exceptions, such as for the armed forces, ranching,
farming, hunting and other specific uses. These may require juveniles
to possess prior written consent from a parent or guardian.
- Probation is established as a penalty for juveniles in possession
of a handgun or handgun ammunition if the juvenile has never been convicted
of an offense or adjudicated as a delinquent for an offense. Otherwise,
the maximum penalty for a juvenile is one year of imprisonment.
In addition, the penalty for an adult who transfers a handgun or handgun
ammunition to a juvenile is generally one year imprisonment. Under the
new federal law, if the adult knew or had reasonable cause to know that
the juvenile intended to possess or use the handgun or ammunition in a
crime of violence, the maximum penalty is ten years of imprisonment.
Previous federal laws state that a licensed firearms dealer who transfers
any firearm to a person under eighteen years of age, or any firearm other
than a rifle or shotgun to a person under twenty-one years of age, is
subject to a maximum penalty of five years of imprisonment.
Juveniles and drugs. With respect to using minors to distribute
drugs in or near a protected zone the 1994 Violent Crime Control Act also
created new criminal provisions. The Act tripled the maximum penalty for
using a minor to distribute drugs around or within 1,000 feet of a protected
location, such as a school, college, playground, or public swimming pool.
In addition, it tripled the maximum penalty for using a minor to assist
in avoiding detection or apprehension for drug dealing at or near a protected
ACA RECOMMENDATIONS ON VICTIMS OF JUVENILE OFFENDERS
In 1994, the American Correctional Association (ACA) published sixteen
recommendations to initiate and enhance rights and service for victims
of juvenile offenders. This landmark publication included the following:
- The rights of victims of juvenile offenders should mirror the rights
of victims of adult offenders in the United States. Crime victims should
not be discriminated against based upon the age of their offenders.
- Crime data and statistics must be better categorized and analyzed
according to the age of the offender, the classification of crime, and
the type of victim.
- Victims must have access to information about their offenders' status.
Therefore, restrictions on confidential information relevant to the
victim must be removed from the files of juvenile offenders and the
agencies that serve them.
- Any treatment and/or education programs for juvenile offenders must
include a victim awareness component.
- Juvenile justice, victim service and allied professionals should
collaborate on efforts to adopt and implement the balanced approach
of restorative justice as a guide to agency and system policies, programs,
- Victim/witness and victim assistance programs must be expanded to
serve victims of juvenile offenders and be housed in juvenile courts,
probation, and corrections departments for easy access by victims and
- Juvenile justice personnel--including administrators, managers, and
line staff-need victim sensitivity and awareness training included as
part of their basic and continuing education. In addition, victim assistance
personnel need training on juvenile justice policies, procedures, and
- Juvenile corrections agencies must adopt protocol, programs, policies,
and training for field, custody, and support staff on how to respond
to staff victimization and critical incidents.
- There must be updated comprehensive literature reviews and research
into existing statutory and constitutional protections affecting victims
of juvenile crime, along with existing programs and policies that pertain
to victims of juvenile crime.
- Existing victim service and victim awareness programs within the
juvenile justice and juvenile corrections systems must be evaluated,
with the data utilized to enhance, expand, and replicate effective programs
- Juvenile offender management and tracking systems should incorporate
databases that include information about crime victims and rights relevant
to the juvenile offenders' cases.
- Improved efforts to network must be made and to provide comprehensive
cross-training among local, state, and national juvenile justice officials,
juvenile corrections professionals, and associations, and local, state,
and national victim service professionals and associations.
- All programs and services designed to assist victims of juvenile
offenders must understand and respect diversity of juvenile offenders
and their victims--by culture, gender, geography, race, physical/mental
disabilities, and religion--in order to be truly effective.
- All U.S. Department of Justice agencies that provide research, evaluation,
training, and technical assistance relevant to juvenile justice and/or
crime victims should designate a staff position specific to victims
of juvenile offenders.
- The American Correctional Association should conduct public hearings
to receive testimony from juvenile corrections professionals, juvenile
justice officials, victim service providers, crime victims and allied
professionals about all topics relevant to victims and victim services
within the juvenile justice system.
- The American Correctional Association should adopt these Victims
Committee recommendations as a foundation for Association policy on
victims of juvenile offenders.
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE INITIATIVES
In the National Juvenile Justice Action Plan published in 1996,
the U.S. Department of Justice affirmed its commitment to supporting improved
rights and services for victims of juvenile offenders. The Plan included
the following response to victims' concerns:
As a civilized society, we need to feel safe in the company of people
who walk our streets and attend our schools. Even if we improve the
juvenile justice system so that it is capable of providing treatment,
skills training, and rehabilitation, mechanisms must be in place to
provide information about juvenile offenders and support the rights
of victims. Simultaneously, however, we need to ensure that reasonable
confidentiality protections are afforded to juvenile offenders.
The Action Plan endorses the presence of victims in the courtroom,
particularly in felony cases. Victims of juvenile offenders should be
given the opportunity to address the court and be notified of the disposition,
parole status, and release of perpetrators. It also supports programs
that help young offenders understand the long-term effects of their
behavior and learn how to control anger and resolve conflicts without
violence. . .
In addition, the Action Plan endorsed the ACA recommendations
cited above relevant to victims' participatory rights, access to information,
victim awareness programs for youthful offenders, and training and collaborative
efforts among victim services and juvenile justice professionals.
The Office for Victims of Crime has provided leadership and resources
to promote victims' rights and services in juvenile justice. In 1995,
OVC funded three forums sponsored by the National Organization for Victim
Assistance to address these issues. In 1997 and 1998, OVC sponsored two
projects that focused on improving the juvenile court's response to victims
of juvenile offenders, and incorporating restorative justice initiatives
into juvenile justice, based upon input from victims of juvenile offenders,
juvenile court judges and other juvenile justice practitioners.
In addition, OVC has provided input and advice to national organizations
that are seeking ways to improve victim involvement in juvenile court,
treatment and rehabilitation and probation and aftercare processes. OVC-funded
projects--such as victim impact statement guidelines, resources for victims
of gang violence and promising practices in corrections--include important
components relevant to victims of juvenile offenders.
- National Youth Court Center (NYCC). To establish a central point
of contact for youth court programs, the Office of Juvenile Justice
and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) established NYCC in 1999 at the American
Probation and Parole Association (APPA). There are now more than 650
youth court programs throughout the country, with hundreds of jurisdictions
ready to develop new programs. All adhere to the same underlying philosophy:
hold juvenile offenders accountable for their actions, educate youth
about the judicial and legal systems, and empower youth to be active
in their communities. NYCC manages an information clearinghouse that
provides information on operations and practices of youth court programs
in the U.S., maintains a searchable database of information about active
and developing youth court programs, and maintains a youth court Web
site www.youthcourt.net. The Center also provides training and technical
assistance, including national training seminars consisting of two tracks--a
beginner track for new or developing youth court programs and an advanced
track for operating programs. NYCC is currently in the process of developing
national guidelines to assist youth court programs in developing policy
and implementing practices that promote accountability and integrity
in the juvenile justice system. National Youth Court Center, PO Box
11910, Lexington, KY 40578-1910 (606-244-8215) (Vickers May 2000).
- The Deschutes County (Oregon) Juvenile Community Justice Department
(JCJD), with support from the Office for Victims of Crime Training and
Technical Assistance Center (TTAC), developed two victim evaluation/assessment
surveys to determine the scope and quality of services the agency provides
to victims of crime. In a series of questions that are ranked on a scale,
"yes/no", or open-ended, the JCJD attempted to discern the
following information directly from victims:
1. How would you rate your overall satisfaction with the Juvenile
Community Justice staff?
2. Were you treated respectfully and with consideration by the staff
with whom you had contact at Juvenile Community Justice?
a. Could you tell us more about your contact with our agency
3. Was our staff knowledgeable regarding issues that were important
4. What services did our staff provide to you?
5. Were you provided with information about victim services available
to you from our agency, as well as other programs in our community?
a. If "yes", was this information helpful and easy
6. Were you informed about your rights as a victim of crime?
7. Did you receive timely notice of the status of court hearings
related to your case?
8. Did you receive information about requesting restitution to help
compensate for any financial losses you may have incurred, and to
hold the youthful offender accountable?
a. If "yes", was the restitution information helpful
and easy to understand?
9. Did you have the opportunity to give input that defined the
harm that was caused by this offense, addressed how the offense
affected you and your family, and requested appropriate restitution
to compensate for any financial losses you incurred?
10. If you had any safety concerns resulting from your victimization,
did our agency offer you the opportunity to address them?
11. How would you rate your overall satisfaction with the Juvenile
Community Justice staff?
Two surveys were developed for cases that are processed formally
and informally. The victim assessment surveys provide opportunity
for additional comments, as well as information about volunteering
for the agency. They offer the chance to engage victims in a meaningful
manner, and utilize their input to improve the agency's programs
and services for victims (Deschutes County JCJD 2000).
- Youthful offenders in Deschutes County (Bend), Oregon, are required
to complete a "victim impact statement" that is quite similar
to those completed by their actual victims. The purpose is to have the
child assess the harm they have caused as well as provide them with
the opportunity to offer suggestions on how they could attempt to repair
the harm caused to their victim(s).
- Teens, Crime and the Community (TCC), a partnership between the National
Crime Prevention Council and Street Law, Inc., funded by OJJDP, is a
national program that combines education and action to reduce teen victimization.
Through community service projects, TCC provides a forum for youth to
take a stand against violence and become part of the solution to improving
their schools and communities. With the help of dedicated teachers and
other staff, TCC teaches young people about the effects of crime; how
to recognize and prevent crime; and how to report crime, be a good witness,
and help victims. More than half a million teenagers in forty states
have participated in TCC since it began in 1985 (Youth in Action 1999).
- The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention has highlighted
key elements of the new accountability-based juvenile justice system
role outlined by the Pennsylvania Juvenile Court Judges' Commission
in 1997. Among the elements of the new accountability-based juvenile
justice system role are the following:
- To regard crime victims and the community, in addition to juvenile
offenders, as clients.
- To make community restoration and victim reparation by offenders
- To ensure that offenders understand the impact of their crimes.
- To develop community service options that are valued by communities
and crime victims.
- To educate the community about its role (OJJDP September 1999).
- A series of nine brochures, entitled "How to Be Victim Friendly
in Juvenile Court," was developed in 1998 by the National Council
of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, with support from the Office for
Victims of Crime. These excellent resources were mailed to every
juvenile court in the United States and are available from the National
- A number of juvenile justice agencies have developed mission statements
that reflect the importance and value of victims' rights and services.
The Pima County Juvenile Court Center publishes a "Mission of the
Juvenile Court Concerning Victims' Rights" in an informational
brochure. This includes:
- Treating victims with fairness, respect and dignity, and keeping
them from intimidation, harassment, or abuse throughout the juvenile
- Promoting communication between victims and the court.
- Ensuring that victims are informed of their rights and given the
opportunity to exercise their rights.
- Helping protect victims from any further loss or injury.
The Probation Department of Stanislaus County, California, articulates
the following vision for victims of juvenile crime:
- Include victims in the juvenile justice process.
- Keep victims' needs and concerns paramount.
- Keep victims informed.
- Advocate services for victims.
- Increase victims' knowledge of their rights.
- Enhance staff awareness of victims' needs and services."
- In St. Louis County, Missouri, the goals of the Juvenile Crime Victim
Advocate Program "are to provide victims with an overview of the
juvenile court process, supportive services such as crisis intervention
and court preparation and accompaniment to hearings, referrals to the
community to resources and information about the Missouri Crime Victims
Compensation process." Referrals to the program are received from
court personnel, law enforcement, school and hospital social workers,
or victims who call in to request assistance.
- The office of the District Attorney in Sedgwick County, Kansas, provides
victims of juvenile offenders with An Information Guide for the Juvenile
Justice System. This publication was developed to be user-friendly
and simple to understand. It mostly uses a "question and answer"
format. Following a brief introduction from District Attorney Nola Foulston
and a copy of the Kansas Victims Bill of Rights is a description of
the entire juvenile court process from the victim's perspective.
- In South Carolina, a videotape was developed with support from the
Office for Victims of Crime, U.S. Department of Justice, that "walks"
victims through the criminal and juvenile justice system. The juvenile
court section highlights differences in victims' rights and provides
an overview of rights and services.
- The "Victims First" program, sponsored by the Lincoln Action
Program in Lincoln, Nebraska, identified crime victims who have suffered
property damage as a result of crime. Teams of youthful offenders, who
are closely supervised and mentored by community volunteers, provide
crime scene repair services as well as any other services (such as painting,
yard work, or general cleaning) that the victim requests. Then the victims
speak to the youthful offenders about how they felt being victimized,
including the emotional, physical, and financial losses they endured.
The ensuing group discussion helps the young offenders better understand
the impact of crime on victims and communities.
Juvenile Justice Self-Examination
1. Describe the original purpose of the juvenile justice system.
2. Identify three of the nine general findings from the BARJ research
(1998) about victims and the juvenile court process.
3. Describe three characteristics that are unique to victims of juvenile
offenders, and three characteristics that differentiate the juvenile justice
system from the criminal justice system.
4. Describe one type of victim/offender program or creative disposition
that helps youthful offenders understand the impact of their actions on
their victims, their own families, their communities, and themselves.
5. Identify five of the fourteen key stakeholders in assisting victims
of juvenile offenders throughout the juvenile justice system.
NVAA LEARNING EXERCISE
Chapter 3.1: Juvenile Justice
Brief Description of Exercise/Activity: For the past century, the juvenile justice system has operated on the premise of what is in "the best interest of the child." In many jurisdictions, "the best interest" of the youthful offender has been narrowly interpreted to exclude the victim from a meaningful role in the juvenile justice process, and from having participatory rights.
Divide students into groups of ten, and ask each group to take five minutes and identify three ways that victim involvement and victims' rights throughout the juvenile justice process can (and should) be considered "in the best interest of the juvenile offender." Process out their responses on a tear sheet entitled "Victim Participation in the JJS: In the Best Interest of the Child."
The faculty can utilize the attached facilitator probes to encourage discussion.
Goals of Activity:
1. To help students understand that "the best interest of the child offender" and "the best interests of crime victims" are not mutually exclusive.
2. To promote analysis and group discussion about how victims' rights and victim participation throughout the juvenile justice process can benefit the youthful offender.
RESOURCES NEEDED (PLEASE CHECK ALL THAT APPLY):
__X__ Tear Sheets and felt pens
_____ Overhead projector and screen
__X__ Masking tape
_____ Index cards
_____ Individual or group work sheets (please provide)
__X__ Other (please describe): Facilitator probes.
NVAA LEARNING EXERCISE:
FACILITATOR PROBES FOR GROUP DISCUSSION
- Many victims of juvenile crime know their offenders, and are interested in seeking justice in ways that help the child refrain from re-offending in the future.
- If the victim and offender know each other, it is in the best interest of the child to repair the harm done, to the degree possible, to repair the relationships (theirs, their families', etc.) that have been damaged.
- The victim can define the harm caused by the offense for the court and probation agency.
- The "best interest of the child" should include accountability to his victim, his own family, and his community.
- The victim can identify real or perceived fears they have relevant to the youthful offender, and offer the court insights into the youth's capacity for causing further harm.
- Victims in juvenile cases often contribute innovative ideas for creative dispositions.
- Victim/offender programming can help the offender understand the impact of the crime on the victim and, at the same time, validate the victim's experience.
- The victim can document their losses so that the court can order appropriate restitution.
|Chapter 3 Specific Justice Systems and Victims' Rights