The modern juvenile justice system needs consistent improvements. The public debate over enhancing the juvenile justice system evokes two opposing views on the juvenile justice. On the one hand, there is a punitive approach, which implies stricter punishment for juvenile delinquent. On the other hand, there is a liberal approach, which defends juveniles and insists on the necessity of their exclusion from the criminal justice system. However, neither approach has gained the public approval. In such a situation, Scott and Steinberg has developed an alternative vision of the juvenile justice grounded on their developmental model, which views juveniles in the course of their development, whereas society should just help juveniles to overcome current delinquent inclinations to enter a successful adult life.
Scott and Steinberg reject both a punitive approach and a liberal approach. Instead, Scot and Steinberg suggest an alternative approach based on the developmental model of juvenile justice. The developmental model is grounded on the vision of adolescents in the course of their personal development. Their delinquency may be the result of negative impacts of their environment, errors they make or other reasons, which are natural for them. However, their behavior can be changed, if adults contribute to their development and provide them with positive models of behavior.
Scott and Steinberg provide several reasons for the implementation of their developmental model because this model helps delinquent juveniles to make a successful transition to adulthood. In this regard, they argue that, first, juvenile deviant behavior is shaped by developmental forces that contribute to immature judgments (Scott and Steinberg, 2008, p.223). Second, high-crime neighborhood increases the risk of criminal behavior of juveniles but they still can mature without criminal inclinations (Scott and Steinberg, 2008, p.223). Third, environment influences juveniles but correctional settings and interventions can help delinquent youth to make a successful transition to adulthood (Scott and Steinberg, 2008, p.223-224). The developmental model developed by Scott and Steinberg implies that juvenile delinquents can change their behavior and lifestyle but they need the assistance of the society, including their family members, social workers, educators, and others.
At first glance, this approach has a number of benefits. For instance, the developmental model implies that juveniles can always be “corrected”. Second, this model allows decreasing the negative impact of social environment of juveniles, if the society takes essential measures to help adolescents to change their lifestyle.
On the other hand, the problem of severe crimes being committed by juveniles persists because this model leaves room for the correction of juveniles but it gives little options for the punishment of juveniles. In addition, the model makes juveniles dependent on their social environment and those adults, who can guide them through challenges of their crime neighborhood to successful transition to adulthood.
In fact, Scott and Steinberg suggest the model that is quite different from the current juvenile justice reform. In actuality, the juvenile justice tends to enhance punitive measures. Their model rather inclines toward the liberal approach to the juvenile justice.
Nevertheless, Scott and Steinberg arrive to the conclusion that political leaders, the public, and practitioners should unite their efforts to reform the juvenile justice and to improve it respectively to the model developed by the authors. In this regard, they are right because the mutual efforts of policy-makers, the public and practitioners are essential for the success of the juvenile justice reform.
Scott, E. & L. Steinberg. (2008). Rethinking Juvenile Justice. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.