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Juvenile Justice Philosophy and the Demise of Parens Patriae (From Criminal Justice in America: Theory, Practice, and Policy, P 321-332, 1996, Barry W Hancock and Paul M Sharp, eds. -- See NCJ-160206)

NCJ Number
R A Weisheit; D M Alexander
Date Published
12 pages
A total of 220 survey responses from juvenile court judges expressed their views on the juvenile court's discretion, intervention, and rehabilitation under the concept of parens patriae.
The cornerstone of juvenile justice philosophy in America has been the principle of parens patriae; under this principle, the State is to act as a substitute parent to a child whose parents, for one reason or another, cannot properly raise the child. Regarding discretion, the responding judges favored retaining the juvenile court as a separate administrative unit, but they did not believe that juveniles currently have too many legal rights in the juvenile court system. They did not favor expanding the jurisdiction of adult courts over juvenile cases by either increasing the use of waivers to adult courts or by lowering the age at which juveniles can be waived. Judges also favored early intervention by the court, with most believing that the court typically becomes involved too late in the lives of most juvenile offenders. The responding judges also supported the concept of treatment for juvenile offenders. Many believed they could recognize which youths were headed for further trouble and hence were in need of treatment. The support they showed for treatment and their faith in their own ability to identify juveniles' need of treatment, however, was unrelated to whether they thought even the best treatment programs could succeed. There were many judges who viewed the juveniles themselves as the reason for program failure, and these judges were most pessimistic about the effectiveness of adequately funded and staffed treatment programs. Overall, the judges' responses provide little support for the belief that the principles underlying parens patriae have been abandoned by the juvenile courts. 4 tables, discussion questions, and suggested student applications of the chapter material