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Juvenile Justice: Community Treatment

Diversion, Pre-adjudication, Post-adjudication, Aftercare, Issues And Trends, Conclusion

Juvenile courts and the rest of the juvenile justice system are responsible for dealing with:

(1) juvenile delinquents, who have committed an act, such as an assault or burglary, that would be a crime if committed by an adult; and (2) status offenders, whose behavior, such as school truancy, running away from home, or incorrigibility, is illegal for a child but would not be a crime if committed by an adult. The juvenile justice system has often been characterized as a series of decision points where various actors—police, court intake workers, prosecutors, probation officers, judges, treatment managers—weigh the situation and, with varying degrees of discretion, decide what to do with a child. The decision may be to do nothing further at this time, to negotiate an informal agreement with parents or others on a course of action in lieu of further formal processing, or to proceed with formal processing through the system. At the extreme, the decision may be to remove a child from his or her home, sometimes for a long time, or even to transfer jurisdiction to the adult criminal justice system. In contrast to the adult system, decisions in juvenile justice are guided by multiple goals, including treatment (sometimes termed rehabilitation, or competency development) for the youth in addition to public safety protection and punishment.

Community treatment may be relevant at any of the decision points outlined above. Community treatment in juvenile justice refers to a number of interventions whose main similarity is that they are alternatives to placement in large, secure institutions, such as detention centers or training schools. As will be discussed later in this entry, the most common of these is probation. Other community treatment programs include diversion, home detention, youth service bureaus, day treatment programs, restitution and community service, and community residential placements, such as group homes and shelters.

Communities may initiate broad-based, delinquency prevention efforts such as DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) programs in schools, youth development and recreation programs, and alternative schools. Components of the juvenile justice system (juvenile courts, police, probation services, etc.) may be partners in such initiatives. These and related prevention programs, however, are discussed elsewhere in this volume. Community treatment programs within or directly tied to juvenile justice may be used to divert youths from further processing, as an adjunct to some other form of processing, or as the main element of a disposition. Following a description of diversion, this entry will review community treatment programs at various points in the system—pre-adjudication (after arrest, while waiting for a court hearing), post-adjudication (following the dispositional hearing), or even as part of aftercare (following a stay at a residential institution). A concluding section examines some major issues and trends surrounding the use of community treatment in juvenile justice.


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Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationCrime and Criminal Law