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Qualitative and Fieldwork Methods Workshop

April 4, 2019 - 9:00am
McClatchey Hall, Room 215

Paper Presentation

"Rehabilitation with Responsibility: Responding to Youth in Juvenile Delinquency Court"

Catherine Sirois
Stanford University


Youth who become involved with the juvenile justice system are more likely to be arrested and incarcerated as adults. This paper considers one potential explanation for young people’s continued involvement with the legal system throughout their lives: the role of juvenile court actors. Through interviews and ethnographic observation of juvenile court hearings, the analysis explores how court actors characterize and respond to youth in the juvenile justice system. I find that juvenile court actors most often perceive the juvenile system as a rehabilitative institution that aims to help youth who are in trouble. However, this account sometimes diverges from how court actors decide to respond to youth. Court observation suggests this divergence may in part be explained by the extent to which court actors hold youth responsible for their own actions. Because youth in the juvenile justice system are disproportionately likely to be Black and Latino boys from poor families, these findings shed light on how young people come to be criminalized and on how social disadvantage comes to be reproduced.