U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

NCJRS Virtual Library

The Virtual Library houses over 235,000 criminal justice resources, including all known OJP works.
Click here to search the NCJRS Virtual Library

Mending Broken Promises: Justice for Children at Risk

NCJ Number
Richard A. Couto; Nancy B. Stutts
Date Published
137 pages
This study explored the causes of juvenile crime and violence, dispelling the myth about "bad seeds" and focusing instead on "poor soil"; it recommends the reallocation of resources from punishment to prevention.
In 1999 the Richmond Juvenile Court (Virginia) marked the centennial of America's juvenile court system. As part of its observance, the court asked its Citizens Advisory Council and the Jepson School of Leadership Studies to collaborate in a study of the gaps in court services and the needs of at-risk children and their families. This report presents the methodology and findings of this study. The study's participatory action methodology involved interviews with judges and clerks; officers of the Richmond Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court; Court Services Unit staff; law enforcement personnel; secure detention staff; social service agencies personnel; educators; prosecutors and defense attorneys; and private bar attorneys and guardians ad litem. The study found that efforts to "get tough" on juvenile offenders often ignore the underlying causes of problematic behavior, causes such as poverty, racism, unemployment, "war zone" neighborhoods, mental impairment, school failure, and child abuse and neglect. The findings expose recurrent systemic problems and gaps in services. Research substantiates three primary targets for intervention with youth: family, neighborhood, and school. This report describes a number of effective interventions and notes targeted opportunities for philanthropic foundations. Extensive figures and tables and 121 references