Skip to main content

Position Statement

Juvenile Justice Enacted: Jan 1996   Revised: Jul 2013

The juvenile justice system encompasses a wide range of agencies and organizations including law enforcement, courts, district attorney, public defender, probation and parole, detention facilities, child and youth service program providers and advocates. The judicial and juvenile justice processes are designed to provide public safety, accountability and rehabilitation in a balanced and restorative manner in responding to delinquent and other deleterious behaviors of youth identified in juvenile statutes. The system was also established to protect the interests of children who are the victims of abuse and neglect. Juvenile justice system agencies are urged to develop effective and humane policies, programs and practices reflecting the following principles.

  1. The juvenile justice system must offer a full continuum of culturally appropriate, integrated services to meet the needs of the broad range of children and youth who are victims and/or offenders. The priority of this continuum should be on the provision of primary prevention, early intervention and community-based supervision in the least restrictive setting consistent with public safety. When intervention is necessary, the continuum should offer diversionary and educational programs as well as specialized therapeutic services that are supported by research. When necessary, coercive intervention and sanctions should follow the least restrictive principle by offering varying levels of supervision and custodial care and emphasis should be on reentry and aftercare.
  2. Juvenile justice system services should be provided by culturally sensitive, appropriately trained professionals who are committed to treatment and rehabilitation of youth and who receive on-going training and information on the latest research related to effective interventions.
  3. Agencies should use an objective risk and needs assessment tool which has been validated for the youth in their jurisdiction to assist them in the development of the youth’s case plan, in realigning supervision resources to the highest risk youth and in making custody, dispositional and/or supervision decisions. Assessments used must also identify the youth’s service needs and protective factors in order to more effectively reduce the likelihood of recidivism. Services should be equally accessible across all classes, cultures, jurisdictions, sexual orientation and ethnic groups.
  4. Supervision plans are most effective when they include a plan of treatment that reflects the principles of effective intervention that have been demonstrated to increase positive behavior change and to reduce recidivism.
  5. Court-ordered sanctions and conditions should be applied judiciously, be consistent and equitable as well as contribute toward the child’s healthy emotional and social development. The sanctions and conditions should provide opportunities for additional skill building through use of positive reinforcement that is responsive to the youth’s developmental stage and learning style.
  6. The restoration of victim, offender and community should be included as part of any service system response that is addressing juvenile delinquency.
  7. Services should be provided to meet the individual economic, developmental, gender, intellectual abilities, cognitive capabilities, language and cultural needs of each child and youth. Every effort should be made to address the need of the child or youth for permanence and bonding with his or her family and home community. To the degree possible, services should be inclusive of and cognizant of, family issues, needs and strengths while collaboratively engaging the biological and extended family. Research has shown that family engagement has resulted in improved recidivism reduction.
  8. An integrated care model should be emphasized recognizing the importance of interagency collaboration and partnerships with other youth and family serving organizations on behalf of the child or youth. Frequent communication and planning about delinquency prevention and restoration efforts should occur among all stakeholders.
  9. For evidence-based practices to be delivered effectively, juvenile justice agencies should recruit prospective candidates from four-year colleges and universities with an educational emphasis in related fields of study. These candidates must demonstrate a commitment to the treatment and rehabilitation of youth and exhibit an interest and attributes in helping youth and their families as a professional within the context of a juvenile justice agency.
  10. Juvenile justice agency supervisors are critical to the effective delivery and sustainment of evidence-based practices, and thus should be specially trained in this body of knowledge and the skills of coaching and rewarding their employees in the delivery of evidence-based practices.
  11. Juvenile justice agencies should regularly review and revise when necessary their policies and practices to align with evidence-based practices.

All agencies and organizations involved in the life of a child or youth must accept the resulting responsibility to provide services or assist in securing appropriate services which guide and nurture children and youth toward healthy and productive adult lives.