Unique circumstances sometimes underlie juvenile delinquency cases. In order to properly handle those cases and prevent further wrongdoing, targeted approaches can specifically address those underlying circumstances in ways traditional juvenile justice systems cannot.
The circuit court in Winnebago County, Illinois, recently initiated the Youth Recovery Court for youths with mental illnesses or substance abuse issues. Specifically limited to youths charged with nonviolent offenses, the court seeks to treat the mental health or substance abuse issue to prevent further delinquency linked to those health issues. This community based program incorporates a high level of family participation to ensure adherence to the treatment plan.
Livingston County, New York, has adopted a restorative justice approach to handle first-time non-violent delinquent youths through their Youth Court program. Administered by teenage volunteers who dole out community service sanctions, this court seeks to make young offenders aware of how their actions impact their peers, victims, and the community at large. With a quick turnaround (no more than 60 days) and initial success (30 out of 31 juveniles handled by the Youth Court fully completed their community service sanction), the Youth Court hopes to increase youth responsibility while redressing wrongs.
These targeted approaches offer a different course for specific low-level juvenile offenders who may benefit far more from diversion from the juvenile justice system without risk to the public safety.