Policy makers concentrating on juvenile crime should pay need to research that could guide more-effective prevention efforts, criminologists told the Justice Department’s annual criminal justice research and evaluation conference yesterday. As an example, Terence Thornberry of the University of Albany said that child maltreatment is a more significant factor pointing to delinquency if it happens during adolescence than during early childhood. Daniel Nagin of Carnegie Mellon University said that only one-eighth of children who are aggressive at age 6 will continue into adolescence or young adulthood. Two common characteristics of such children are having mothers who never got past 9th grade or who began child rearing as teenagers.
Kip Leonard, a juvenile court judge from Eugene, Or., said that most judges are not trained to spot the elements cited by the experts when they pronounce sentence. Leonard, noting that, “We don’t punish kids into success,” called for “therapeutic jurisprudence.” Now, the two fundamental parts of the juvenile justice system do not necessarily work together, Leonard said. “We need to bring togethere the dependency system (handling abused and neglected children) and the delinquency system. We let kids drift until they get to the delinquency system.”