Judging Juveniles: Prosecuting Adolescents in Adult and Juvenile Courts

By Aaron Kupchik | Go to book overview

6 Children in an Adult World

Over one hundred years following the creation of the juvenile court, an institution made necessary by the growing realization that adolescents are different from adults and require different responses when they commit crimes, we are now prosecuting an increasing number of adolescents in criminal courts. We refer to this practice as the act of “prosecuting juveniles as adults,” but it is unclear whether these youth are in fact dealt with as if they are equal to adults.

Based on the existing literature and political rhetoric, one would assume that different models of justice—the juvenile justice model and the criminal justice model—guide case processing in the two types of courts. In the preceding chapters I assessed the validity of these models of justice, which leads me to conclude that the prosecution and punishment of adolescents in the New Jersey juvenile court fits the juvenile justice model very well. In contrast, I find that criminal courts approximate a criminal justice model during the early stage of case processing, and a juvenile justice model during the late stage for all dimensions other than punishment severity (formality, evaluation, and sentencing goals). Because the criminal court reflects a hybrid form of justice that incorporates elements of both juvenile and criminal justice at different stages of case processing, I call this a sequential model of justice.

The results of my research beg the question whether sequential justice is a product of prosecuting adolescents, or if it is simply a feature of criminal court case processing for all defendants. It is possible that adult defendants as well are prosecuted in a formal environment in which only offense severity is considered during early stages of case processing, yet during sentencing the court operates with a less formal style, considers characteristics of offenders as mitigating evidence, and pursues a rehabilitative sentencing goal. This possibility acknowledges that laws are unable to repress the application of substantive justice within criminal

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Judging Juveniles: Prosecuting Adolescents in Adult and Juvenile Courts
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • 1: Introduction - Growing Up Quickly 1
  • 2: Law and Context 24
  • 3: He Process of Prosecuting Adolescents - How Formal? 50
  • 4: Judging Adolescents - What Matters? 71
  • 5: Punishment for Adolescents - What Do They Get, and Why? 109
  • 6: Children in an Adult World 131
  • 7.Putting the Genie Back in the Bottle - Lessons for Policy 149
  • Appendix - Research Methods 167
  • Notes 183
  • Index 205
  • About the Author 211
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