A new report led by University of Virginia law professor Richard Bonnie lays out a blueprint to reform the nation's juvenile justice system to better hold youth offenders accountable, prevent recidivism and ensure adolescent offenders are treated fairly.The report, "Reforming Justice Justice: A Developmental Approach," was commissioned by the National Research Council at the request of the federal Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. The report's authors argue that the juvenile justice system must be overhauled to incorporate an emerging body of science-based knowledge about adolescent development and effective interventions, which should improve outcomes for young offenders and society as a whole.
The report says the juvenile justice system relies too heavily on jail, punishment and deprivation. Bonnie said the goal should be "accountability without criminalization." The report suggests: use restitution and community service to hold offenders accountable; confine juveniles sparingly and only when necessary; avoid collateral consequences of juvenile offending, such as the public release of records that could reduce the offender's opportunities for a successful life, and engage the offender's family and draw on neighborhood resources to encourage social development and law-abiding behavior.