Children Who Murder: A Psychological Perspective

By Robert V. Heckel; David M. Shumaker | Go to book overview

Chapter 4

By What Means Are They Dealt?

The long-standing philosophy regarding the differential approach to dealing with adult criminals and juvenile offenders has increasingly come under debate and question. Increase in juvenile violence has led to massive statutory and policy change. Violent cases once routinely handled within the juvenile system are now waived to criminal court or are by exclusion or prosectutorial decision initially dealt with in that setting (Grisso 1998). Originally, the juvenile court system emerged to separate children from the adult criminal justice system. The adult system had and continues to have punishment as its focus. Assumptions regarding the causes of the child’s delinquent behavior influenced by developmental theorists, psychologists, sociologists, and others shifted from individual responsibility regardless of age to the more contemporary view of the delinquent child as a product of the environment (home, community, and school). Punishment for the delinquent child was superseded by a recognition that because juvenile offenders lack adult judgment and responsibility, the approach should be an individualized one focused on treatment, behavioral control, and rehabilitation. Several factors may account for the discrepancy between the helping professions (psychology, psychology social work, etc.) and court and correctional officials with regard to treatment and rehabilitation. First, the public and the media judge courts and correctional facilities on the basis of their failures, not their successes. Second, a prevailing attitude among correctional personnel is that “nothing works,” an attitude supported in

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