A primer on the issues confronting California's juvenile justice system
Juvenile crime is a problem for both citizens and government, not merely because kids do a lot of crime (which they do); and not merely because the seriousness of juvenile crime is increasing (which it has been doing over the past two decades). It is also a problem because of the conflict in values that any attempt at intervention raises. The problem with the so-called rehabilitative ideal of the juvenile system is not that forms of treatment--schooling, vocational training, work experience, behavior modification, group counseling, etc.--do not work. They all work to some degree. The problem is that there is no convincing evidence that one method or program works consistently better than any other--meaning that the design of treatment programs for any particular group of youths is fairly arbitrary. The alternatives to rehabilitation that can be invoked in guiding juvenile disposition policies are the concepts of deserts, incapacitation, and deterrence. These last three concepts are discussed in some detail.