Turning the Tide of Juvenile Justice

Article excerpt

In recent years, more juveniles--particularly Black males--have been entering the criminal justice system and being tried as adults. From her perch as a faculty member at Texas' Prate View A&M University, Dr. Camille Gibson wants to do something about that.

"Many law enforcement offices would rather not interact with juveniles; they don't know the laws and aren't comfortable--we want to improve that," she says.

Now, Gibson, an assistant professor of criminal justice, is in a position to do so. With offices in the new $18 million state-of-the-art College of Juvenile Justice and Psychology building, Prairie View is also offering the nation's only doctoral program in juvenile justice. There, Gibson and her colleagues teach, research and advocate public policy to increase understanding of juvenile offenders.

It is not pretty work, especially when dealing with sex crimes, Gibson says. But the majority of teen offenders do not repeat their crimes if they get proper treatment.

"Some judges know this," she says. Others do not.

Gibson wants to ensure that all segments of the juvenile justice system have the most recent research and training when it comes to young offenders. Attorneys should be aware of the psychological research conducted on juvenile offenders and be up to date on the changes in juvenile law, she says. And judges should be kept abreast of treatment options. Social workers can also be trained in techniques that have proven effective in research.

Gibson, a native of Jamaica, earned her bachelor's and master's degrees in criminology from the University of South Florida. She went on to earn her doctorate from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, part of the City University of New York system. …