Gail B. Goodman


More than 100 years ago, reformers established a separate juvenile court system meant to protect and rehabilitate delinquent children. However, several U.S. Supreme Court cases in the 1960s and 1970s slowly eroded the special features that distinguished the juvenile court from the criminal court. In addition, newly enacted legislation has facilitated the transfer of juvenile cases to the adult system. As a result, more juveniles are being tried in adult courts and the goals furthered by the juvenile court system are being ignored. Recent Supreme Court decisions and studies regarding adolescent brain development indicate that the current system for treating juvenile offenders does not adequately protect the special rights of adolescent offenders. Colorado needs to adopt a new process for dealing with violent juvenile offenders, one which adequately recognizes the unique needs of adolescents while simultaneously addressing the serious nature of the offenses. These goals can be achieved by allowing juveniles convicted of the most violent crimes to receive blended sentences, allowing courts to impose juvenile sentences and stayed adult sentences. This sentencing model holds juveniles accountable for their crimes, protects society, and provides young offenders with the resources and the motivation to rehabilitate themselves.

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