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:

Statistical Overview

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:

- 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.


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 to deal 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):

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 protection for 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
Prosecutors Court advocates
Charge Petition for a hearing
Trial Hearing
Conviction Adjudication
Sentence Disposition
Being "found guilty" A "finding"
Parole supervision Aftercare
Criminals/Delinquents Wards/Kids
Getting locked up A placement
Crimes Incidents

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 victims 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:

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:

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 offenders 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.

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, or harm; 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?

2. Which agencies and/or personnel are responsible for notifying victims of key activities and proceedings in juvenile court?

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

4. Are individuals other than the immediate, "direct" victim eligible for notification?

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?

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?

10. Do victims have any recourse if notification, as required by statute, does not occur?


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:

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:

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:

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:

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:


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, 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. These meetings 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:

- 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.

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.

2. A complete understanding of the operations of juvenile/family court.

3. Knowledge of what aspects of the statute are currently being met and by whom? Basic victims' rights should include:

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.

5. Determination of the role of victim service professionals within the system.

6. Referral of victims to victim service professionals.

7. Development of services to be provided to victims and subsequent training to be provided to juvenile court staff:

8. Participation on various committees within the juvenile justice system when victim assistance is pertinent to the assignment of that committee.

9. Program development and program evaluation.



(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.

Juvenile court prosecutors.

Juvenile court administrators.

Juvenile court judges.

Juvenile probation.

Juvenile detention.

Juvenile justice system-based victim advocates.

Community-based victim service providers.

Community organizations that provide supportive services.

Mental health professionals.

County- or city-level victim service coalitions.

State victim compensation programs.

State Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) administrators.

State-level victim service coalitions.

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:

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

- 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."

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.

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