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Bar News - March 22, 2017


Book Review: Book Highlights Common Juvenile Justice Themes and Challenges

By:

The Future of Juvenile Justice: Procedure and Practice from a Comparative Perspective
By Tamar R. Birckhead and Solange Mouthaan
and Solange Mouthaan
Carolina Academic Press, 2016
Paperback, 262 pages

Articles on juvenile justice are ubiquitous online. With the decisions of the United States Supreme Court in Graham v. Florida and Miller v. Alabama still resonating, the topic of juvenile justice continues to be closely watched.

For those looking to influence policy or legislation, this book is a necessary read. However, if you’re looking for practical advice, the book offers a global overview, but not much guidance for the litigator practicing in our family courts. While highlighting approaches to juvenile justice around the world, this book also provokes contemplation of general themes of justice.

The editors of the book, Tamar Birckhead and Solange Mouthaan, bring together a compilation of well-written essays highlighting common interests and difficulties faced by nations attempting to strike a balance between helping children and punishing them. The book explores the gap between law and its implementation, with topics ranging from European legislation, the Canadian justice system, the juvenile systems in India, Italy and the US, to the use and effect of solitary confinement, and the international approach to human trafficking.

The Future of Juvenile Justice addresses different factors affecting treatment of juveniles, highlighting the general acceptance of some scientific findings and their influence on policy. It also includes an excellent discussion of the pros and cons of bright line rules concerning children who are still developing psychologically.

The idea of restorative justice is prevalent in many of the countries compared here, but it is evident that the problem of implementation exists across all cultures. Even where there is ample funding to do so, the law is not being implemented by those in the best position to do so. The book paints a picture of a nearly disjunctive relationship between law and practice.

Although full of data, the book sometimes leaves the reader looking for a truly global view, as it focuses on only a handful of nations or regions. However, good historical summaries give the reader context, with articles containing an abundance of informative footnotes.

The European section reviews the battling ideologies of the “Neo Liberal” approach versus the “Modern Intervention” approach, with one primarily punitive while the other restorative. Also of interest are the cultural differences that come to light, including ways some choose to rebrand universal practices using positive terminology. The book also devotes an insightful chapter on the topic of solitary confinement with an approachable discussion regarding the application of international laws and norms.

Another section looks at Italy, India and the United States. While all three countries share a rehabilitation-driven philosophy, there are interesting differences. A notable discussion focuses on America, where sudden shifts in philosophy driven by current events tend to forestall progress, examining in detail the Central Park Jogger case which resulted in a “tough on crime” wave of legislation. On the other hand, Canada’s history of racial profiling and subsequent reform led to a reduced reliance on courts and custody while increasing participation in diversion programs.

The final chapter focuses on minors as victims of human trafficking and some of the challenges addressing that serious concern. The topic of trafficking victims, although worthy of a book of its own, is conspicuously out of place in a work devoted to the legal challenges addressing children who are charged with violating the law.

Those with an eye toward social justice or who are passionate about juvenile rights would be advised to read this book, especially if they are working to implement policy change. However, those looking for practical guidance on dealing with everyday cases in the juvenile justice system would be advised to look elsewhere.


Joseph Garrison

Joseph Garrison practices criminal law, family law and civil litigation proudly serving Northern and Central New Hampshire.

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