Juvenile Justice: Redeeming Our Children

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Barry Krisberg

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    Preface

    More than 30 years ago I had the unique opportunity of spending almost every day for several months with about 20 young men who were leaders of juvenile gangs in Philadelphia. They introduced me to their fellow gang members and family members and allowed me to share part of their world. They generously shared their lives with me and profoundly changed my own.

    To law enforcement officials and to many community residents, these young men were very dangerous offenders who had been arrested many times and had spent a fair amount of time in juvenile facilities and adult prisons, but to me, they were my teachers and mentors in settings that were very different from my experiences. First and foremost, these young men taught me to listen and to reflect on the life experiences of those less fortunate than myself. Much of my academic and professional career has been built on listening carefully to young people who are often very angry and bitter about their own lives. I have always tried to faithfully communicate what they told me to others in the worlds of public policy, the university community, professional groups, and students. Most recently, I found myself interviewing more than 150 young people who were confined in the California Youth Authority. They told me of everyday examples of abuse and maltreatment by those who were supposed to provide for their education and treatment. Retelling their stories to my fellow Californians is leading to a major reexamination of how the nation's most populous state is treating its troubled young people. I saw the reformative power of this approach in the early 1970s when Jerome Miller, then Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Youth Services, held press conferences across the state and simply asked his young clients to tell the media what was being done to them by a brutal and corrupt youth corrections system. One result of this effort was that Massachusetts closed its barbaric training schools and returned most youths to smaller, high-quality, community-based programs. Even today, the Miller reforms represent the “gold standard” for juvenile justice in the Bay State and across the nation.

    My Philadelphia encounters with young gang members taught me to embrace the value of redemptive justice. It is what we all would want for ourselves and our family members—a justice system that offers the hope that people can improve and can restart their lives in a more positive direction. I believe that the concept of redemptive justice was central to what Jane Addams and other pioneers in juvenile justice were striving to achieve. Rather than killing off the idealistic vision of the juvenile court, we need to rediscover it.

    This book attempts to assemble the research that supports this perspective. I hope to encourage students to think critically. Sometimes, the language used in this book is less than polite—but now is the time for plain talk and “speaking truth to power.” My hope is that this book and the courses in which it will be utilized will be springboards to lead the current generation of idealistic young people into progressive action.

    I have many debts to repay to those who helped me assemble this book. NCCD researchers Priscilla Aguirre, Jessica Craine, Sharan Dhanoa, Poonam Juneja, and Kelly Knight assisted in reviewing earlier drafts, running down key references, and suggesting ways to improve the overall effort. My appreciation goes to great colleagues such as Yitzhak Bakal, Frederick Mills, Richard Tillson, and Buddy Howell who were my sounding boards, patiently listening as I tried to work out some of my ideas. I owe a special debt to the University of California at Berkeley students who lived through a semester devoted to the materials in this book and showed me how to improve my presentation. To my own teachers and mentors, especially Marvin Wolfgang and Thorsten Sellin, I owe so much. They taught me that ideas could change the world for the better and that advances in enlightened social policy are the true measure of lasting intellectual contributions.

    Jerry Westby of Sage Publications was a patient and very supportive editor. Susan Marchionna was the central person in pulling together this manuscript. She conducted complex research, forced me to write and think more clearly, and made sure that the final product was worthy of its goals. Without Susan's very hard work, this book would still be in progress.

    Finally, I want to thank my two sons, Moshe and Zaid, who continue to keep me plugged into the world of young people, educating me about what is really important in life. My life partner, Karen McKie, is responsible for infusing a humanistic spirit into my scholarly work. Her “conceptual physics” helped me look at familiar topics with a fresh set of eyes. Most important, she has showed me what unconditional love and building community can accomplish in a less-than-perfect world. Her love and support make my world possible.

    Sage Publications gratefully acknowledges the contributions of the following reviewers:

    Franklin E. Zimring

    University of California at

    Berkeley

    Yolander G. Hurst

    Southern Illinois University

    Charles E. Owens

    University of North Florida

    Patricia H. Jenkins

    Temple University

    Nancy Rodriguez

    Arizona State University, West

    Sesha Kethineni

    Illinois State University

    Morgan Peterson

    Palomar College

    Lee Ayers

    Southern Oregon University

    Charles L. Dreveskracht

    Northeastern State University

    Verna J. Henson

    Texas State University-San Marcos

    Martha Smithey

    University of Texas at El Paso

    Allison Ann Payne

    College of New Jersey

    Frances G. Pestello

    University of Dayton

    Ron Fagan

    Pepperdine University

    Jeffrey P. Rush

    University of Tennessee at

    Chattanooga

    Terrance J. Taylor

    Georgia State University

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    About the Author

    Barry Krisberg, PhD, has been the president of the National Council on Crime and Delinquency (NCCD) since 1983. He is known nationally for his research and expertise on juvenile justice issues and is called upon as a resource for professionals and the media.

    He received his master's degree in criminology and a doctorate in sociology, both from the University of Pennsylvania.

    He has held several educational posts. He was a faculty member at the University of California at Berkeley; he was also an adjunct professor with the Hubert Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota. He is currently Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Hawaii and a visiting lecturer at the University of California at Berkeley.

    He was appointed by the legislature to serve on the California Blue Ribbon Commission on Inmate Population Management. His memberships include the American Correctional Association, the National Association of Juvenile Correctional Administrators, and the Association of Criminal Justice Researchers. He is past president and fellow of the Western Society of Criminology and is the Chair of the California Attorney General's Research Advisory Committee. In 1993 he was the recipient of the August Vollmer Award, the American Society of Criminology's most prestigious award. The Jessie Ball duPont Fund named him the 1999 Grantee of the Year for his outstanding commitment and expertise in the area of juvenile justice and delinquency prevention.

    He has several books and articles to his credit including Crime and Privilege; The Children of Ishmael: Critical Perspectives on Juvenile Justice with James Austin, PhD; Juvenile Justice: Improving the Quality of Care; Reinventing Juvenile Justice with James Austin, PhD; and A Sourcebook: Serious, Violent, & Chronic Juvenile Offenders with James C. Howell, PhD; J. David Hawkins, PhD; and John J. Wilson, Esq.

    He is frequently called upon by private foundations to assist with the design, implementation, and evaluation of programs—both their own and those of the public sector. For example, most recently, he was the chair on an expert panel reviewing the conditions and policies of the California Youth Authority. The Annie E. Casey Foundation engaged him to assess the effectiveness of their Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative, the single largest private program for juvenile justice system reform in the country. The Walter Johnson Foundation asked that he lead a Blue Ribbon Commission on California's policy of out-of-state placement of delinquent youth. Baptist Community Ministries has sought his expertise on assessing the needs of troubled youth in the greater New Orleans area and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation asked that he prepare a white paper on delinquency and substance abuse.

    He regularly appears as an expert on national network news shows about criminal justice issues and is frequently consulted by the leading print media.


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