The juvenile justice system is beset by major societal forces and does not lack for critics. Several paths are available to guide the future of the juvenile justice system. One direction would amplify the current expansion of punishment and of “holding youth and families more accountable for their misdeeds.” An alternative approach entails rediscovering the historic mission of juvenile justice to provide individualized and compassionate care for delinquent youths. The punitive direction fits with current political rhetoric about “getting tough” with criminals.

The juvenile justice system is beset by major societal forces and does not lack for critics. Several paths are available to guide the future of the juvenile justice system. One direction would amplify the current expansion of punishment and of “holding youth and families more accountable for their misdeeds.” An alternative approach entails rediscovering the historic mission of juvenile justice to provide individualized and compassionate care for delinquent youths. The punitive direction fits with current political rhetoric about “getting tough” with criminals. The doubling of the prison population and the large growth in juvenile incarceration are products of the “hard line” approach. Paradoxically, the urge to punish has not matched with public support to raise taxes to pay for a more vengeful justice system. Consequently, conditions of confinement are worsening, challenging basic American values about cruel and unusual punishment