OVC ArchiveOVC
This file is provided for reference purposes only. It was current when produced, but is no longer maintained and may now be outdated. Please select www.ovc.gov to access current information.

horizontal line break

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.

Learning Objectives

Upon completion of this section, students will understand the following concepts:

  • 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 offenders.

  • Victim assistance services in juvenile court.

  • Promising practices.

Statistical Overview

  • 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 (Ibid., 69).

  • 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 (NIJ 1995).

Victims and the Juvenile Justice System: Recent Research Findings

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 experience.

  • 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, and others.

    • 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 means.

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 1997):

  • 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 1995 (Ibid.).

  • 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.)

Historical Perspective

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 families.

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


Court advocates


Petition for a hearing







Being "found guilty"

A "finding"

Parole supervision




Getting locked up

A placement



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 cases.

  • 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 (45 states).

  • 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 new programs.

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 1999).

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.


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 warranted.

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.


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 the state.

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.


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 records.

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 state law.

The following ten issues (Seymour et al. 1998) should be considered when developing policies and procedures to guide victim notification in juvenile court:

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.

  • Prosecutors.

  • Court officials.

  • Judges.

  • Victim advocates.

  • Probation departments.

  • Juvenile parole board victim advocates.

  • Others.

3. Which types of victims (and witnesses) are entitled to notification rights?

  • 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.

  • Prosecutor.

  • 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?


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 own judgement.

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 safe(r)?

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 amendment).

  • 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 personal safety.

  • 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 safety.

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)


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 to:

  • Restitution.

  • 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 choice.

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.

Victim/Offender Programming

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 meetings.")


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.


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 service to:

    • The victim directly, upon request and with supervision.

    • A charity, cause or public work service of the victim's choice or recommendation.

    • 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 Association).

  • 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 system.

  • 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 (statutory restrictions).

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 issues.

  • 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 advocates.


(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 include:

Law enforcement.

  • 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 cases.

  • 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 reference.

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 cases.

  • 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 statements.

  • Providing information about and guidance in securing restitution orders.

  • 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 by telephone).

  • 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 safety.

  • 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 their testifying.

  • Maintaining a secure courtroom environment that contributes to victim safety.

  • Determining whether or not a victim has any concerns for his or her safety.

  • Reviewing victim impact statements for disposition decisions.

Juvenile probation.

  • 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 restitution orders.

  • Providing victims with information about victim compensation in relevant cases.

  • 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.

Juvenile detention.

  • 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 releases.

  • 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 available services.

  • 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 psychological trauma.

  • Providing counseling and supportive services.

  • Providing advocacy in dealing with the news media (in high profile cases).

  • 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 windows, etc.

  • 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 crime.

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 service providers.

  • Encouraging and supporting collaborative efforts that benefit victims of crime.

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 location.


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:

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. Any treatment and/or education programs for juvenile offenders must include a victim awareness component.

  5. 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, and services.

  6. 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 witnesses.

  7. 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 programs.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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 nationwide.

  11. Juvenile offender management and tracking systems should incorporate databases that include information about crime victims and rights relevant to the juvenile offenders' cases.

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

  16. The American Correctional Association should adopt these Victims Committee recommendations as a foundation for Association policy on victims of juvenile offenders.


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.

Promising Practices

  • 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 and staff?

    3. Was our staff knowledgeable regarding issues that were important to you?

    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 to understand?

    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 a priority.

    • 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 Council.

  • 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 justice process.

    • 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.


Previous Contents Next

Chapter 3 Specific Justice Systems and Victims' Rights June 2002
Archive iconThe information on this page is archived and provided for reference purposes only.