Juvenile Justice Legislation 1999-Change in Focus

By Turpin, James | Corrections Today, October 2000 | Go to article overview

Juvenile Justice Legislation 1999-Change in Focus


Turpin, James, Corrections Today


According to an annual survey conducted by the National Conference of state Legislatures (NCSL), juvenile justice legislation passed during 1999 focused on different areas than in previous years. Often, these reflected new issues of the day, such as school safety, records and proceedings, restorative justice and mental health issues. Some of these parallel issues are gaining prominence in the adult system as well. In general, this can be perceived as positive. The trend toward "adultification" of the juvenile justice system, though still prevalent, appears to be slowing. At the same time, the growing movement toward federalization also appears to be losing momentum.

During a year in which school violence grabbed national headlines, legislatures responded with a variety of school safety measures that addressed issues such as weapons possession and information-sharing between schools, other governmental agencies, including courts, juvenile justice and social services. There were significant enactments that revised both the access to and process of juvenile judicial proceedings. One of the ironies is that this took place in the year that marked the centennial of the juvenile court system.

Finally, new laws provide for restorative justice for offenders and victims, while others address assessment and services directed at the mental health needs of adjudicated offenders. Several issues, specifically those dealing with sex offenders and parental responsibility, remained notable as they had the previous year.

The trends regarding specific issues include:

Weapons at School. Many states addressed weapons possession at schools focusing on prevention as well as increased penalties.

Information-Sharing, Juvenile Records. A number of states passed laws to allow the sharing of certain information among schools and other agencies.

Dispositions and Graduated Sanctions. Classification of offenses and their sanctions continued to attract attention as did restorative justice and restitution.

Mental Health. Mental health screening and treatment of juvenile offenders became an increasing concern in many states. …

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