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Similarly, France built a strong welfare reputation by placing education and rehabilitation at the centre of youth justice reforms in the s.

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New Zealand in established the widely praised system of Family Group Conferencing as an integral part of youth justice, with a focus on restoration of relationships and reduction of incarceration that would be considered part of a welfare approach. In contrast, the UK and the USA have traditionally been associated with a justice model and low age of criminal responsibility — 10 years in England and Wales, and as low as 6 years in several US states. Locations in which children may be deprived of liberty include police stations, detention centres, juvenile or adult prisons, secure remand homes, work or boot camps, penitentiary colonies, locked specialised schools, educational or rehabilitation establishments, military camps and prisons, immigration detention centres, secure youth hostels and hospitals.

The UN supports the development of specialised systems for managing children in conflict with the law. When the first children's courts were set up in the USA in the s, they were widely praised as a progressive system for serving the best interests of the child. Although informality was championed as a particular benefit, in the s substantial concerns arose about due process and the protection of the legal rights of minors.

The subsequent development of formal juvenile courts occurred in the context of a continuing ethos of rehabilitation of young people, with a move away from incarceration of juveniles in the s, especially in Massachusetts and California.

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However, following a marked peak in juvenile offending statistics during the s and s, public and political opinion swung firmly in a more punitive direction. This was accompanied by legal reforms that increased the severity of penalties available to juvenile courts and lowered the age threshold for juveniles to be tried in adult criminal courts. When the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child entered into force in , the USA was not a signatory owing to 22 states permitting capital punishment of individuals who had committed their crimes as juveniles.

It is reported that 19 juvenile offenders were executed in the USA between and Although this number may represent a small percentage of the total who faced the death penalty in the USA during that period, the practice was widely criticised by international bodies and organisations. However, it would be wrong to assume that welfare systems are automatically preferable to a juvenile justice approach, since welfare arrangements can be equally coercive in terms of deprivation of liberty of juveniles.

They may lack due process, safeguards for obtaining reliable evidence from young people, processes for testing evidence, and procedures for scrutiny or appeal following disposal. In common with the USA and several other high-income countries, the UK also experienced a rise in juvenile offending in the s and s, but figures from the Youth Justice Board for England and Wales appear to indicate a general improvement in recent years. The Nordic countries have witnessed an increase in the number of law-abiding youths from and Similarly in Finland, where, despite fluctuating trends in juvenile drug use, juvenile property and violent crime is reported to have decreased between and To summarise, whereas regional and annual trends in juvenile offending are observed and expected, a global trend characterised by decreased juvenile offending appears to have emerged in recent years.

Indeed, UN data from a sample of 40 countries lend support to this conclusion, indicating a decrease in the proportion of juveniles suspected One of the features of urbanisation across the world has been the rise of youth gangs, groups of young people often defined by geographical area, ethnic identity or ideology; recent reports indicate a rise in groups with extremist views. Increased awareness of constitutional and environmental factors that contribute to juvenile offending has strengthened a public health perspective towards the problem, and in the UK entry into the youth justice system has been adopted as an indicator of general public health.

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Indeed, many forensic psychiatrists, particularly in child and adolescent services, undertake roles that encompass multiple legal domains relevant to mental health, including criminal law, family and child custody proceedings, special educational tribunals, and immigration or extradition matters. Specialist forensic psychiatric services vary considerably between countries, 35 but usually forensic psychiatrists assess and treat individuals in secure psychiatric hospitals, prisons, law courts, police stations and in the community under various levels of security, supervision and support.

In some countries there has been a trend towards forensic psychiatrists working almost exclusively with courts of law, providing independent specialist opinion to assist the court. In the UK, forensic child and adolescent psychiatry has emerged as a clinical subspecialty. Some services are based in specialist secure hospitals for young people and cater for the relatively small number of high-risk young offenders with the most severe mental disorders.

In the absence of such specialist resources, young people may be managed in suboptimal environments such as juvenile prisons, secure residential placements or secure mental health wards for adults, or even fail to receive treatment at all. In light of growing evidence-based interventions for juvenile offenders within a public health framework, 36 the role of child and family mental health services may increase over time. Aside from direct clinical roles, practitioners in forensic child and adolescent psychiatry are also well placed to work with a wide range of partner agencies on the planning and delivery of broader interventions for the primary and secondary prevention of juvenile delinquency.

Rates of mental health problems among juvenile offenders are significantly higher than in their non-offender peers, with two-thirds of male juvenile offenders in the USA suggested as meeting criteria for at least one psychiatric disorder. Cognitive—behavioural therapy CBT is regarded as the most effective intervention for adults with PTSD 49 and also has demonstrated efficacy for juvenile non-offenders.

A trauma-focused emotion regulation intervention TARGET has received preliminary empirical support for use in this population. However, the limited evidence that is available suggests that group-based CBT may aid symptom reduction. CBT also resulted in significantly greater improvements in self- and observer-reported symptoms of depression and social functioning.

Evaluations of alternative interventions have posited muscle relaxation as effective in improving juvenile offenders' tolerance of frustration. Relationships with family and peers are recognised as key factors in the criminogenic profile of juvenile offenders. When compared with conventional services offered by juvenile offending services, MST was associated with a significant reduction in the likelihood of reoffending, 71 maintained 2 and 4 years post-treatment. Compared with TAU, MST resulted in a significantly greater increase in social competence and caregiver satisfaction, and a significant reduction in referrals for out-of-home placements, in Norwegian juveniles exhibiting serious behavioural problems.

Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP)

Motivational interviewing represents a promising approach for juvenile offenders, particularly as a treatment for substance misuse. To date, motivational interviewing for difficulties faced by juvenile offenders beyond that of substance misuse does not appear to have received much research attention. Juvenile offenders are known for their difficulty to engage in rehabilitative services, therefore further investigation of the effectiveness of motivational interviewing in encouraging engagement is warranted.

Preliminary investigations have also developed a conceptual framework for the delivery of mindfulness-based interventions MBI to incarcerated substance-misusing juveniles, with qualitative impressions suggesting this is a potentially feasible and efficacious intervention. Engaging juvenile offenders with education and skills-based training is an important component of successful rehabilitation, with positive engagement in meaningful activities associated with improvements in areas such as self-belief 86 and protection against future participation in criminal activities.


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A specialised vocational and employment training programme CRAFT emphasising practical skills was evaluated against conventional education provision to juvenile offenders in the USA. Over a month follow-up period, those engaged in CRAFT were significantly more likely to be in employment, to have attended an educational diploma programme and to have attended for a significantly longer period of time.

Qualitative investigations of US juvenile offenders suggest there is not a lack of interest in pursuing education among this population, but rather a disconnection with educational systems when education providers are perceived not to care about students' progress.

Significant barriers to engagement include difficulties in obtaining accurate information regarding the offender's educational history, in addition to identifying community-based education providers willing to accept previously incarcerated juveniles on their release. Awareness of the challenges these young people face with regard to confidence and ability to communicate is important, and potential involvement of a speech and language therapist could be considered.

Preventing deficits in language and communication through effective schooling and appropriate support in the early years of life may serve as an aid to effective engagement in rehabilitative interventions, and may also mitigate the risk of engagement in criminal activities in the first instance.

There are common obstacles to smooth care pathways between different parts of systems, such as in transitions between secure settings and the community, between prisons and secure psychiatric settings, and between child and adult services. In some jurisdictions individuals can only be treated pharmacologically against their will in a hospital setting, a safeguard which limits the extent to which individuals can be treated in prison, but there is still great scope for intervention by prison mental health teams in juvenile prisons.

In the community, coercive styles of engagement have been found to be less successful at achieving adherence among juvenile offenders than a client-centred approach. Over recent years it has been repeatedly demonstrated that exposure to juvenile court itself appears to have a detrimental effect on juvenile offending. Incarceration presents several additional harms, including disturbance of care and pro-social relationships, discontinuity in education, association with delinquent peers, and exposure to violence.

The cost of juvenile antisocial behaviour is known to be high, and to fall on many agencies. In the UK and other high-income countries worldwide, forensic child and adolescent psychiatry is a multifaceted discipline incorporating legal, psychiatric and developmental fields. This approach has navigated clinical and ethical challenges and made an important contribution to welfare and justice needs by its adoption of an evidence-based therapeutic intervention philosophy. Declaration of interests S. National Center for Biotechnology Information , U. BJPsych Bull. Author information Article notes Copyright and License information Disclaimer.

Correspondence to Susan Young ku. Abstract This review considers juvenile delinquency and justice from an international perspective. What is juvenile delinquency?


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Who counts as juvenile? What is a crime? General principles of juvenile justice Welfare v. Between the less and more punitive systems The UN supports the development of specialised systems for managing children in conflict with the law. Forensic child and adolescent psychiatric services Increased awareness of constitutional and environmental factors that contribute to juvenile offending has strengthened a public health perspective towards the problem, and in the UK entry into the youth justice system has been adopted as an indicator of general public health.

Treatment Prevalence of mental health problems among juvenile offenders Rates of mental health problems among juvenile offenders are significantly higher than in their non-offender peers, with two-thirds of male juvenile offenders in the USA suggested as meeting criteria for at least one psychiatric disorder. Evidence-based treatments for conduct disorder: family approaches Relationships with family and peers are recognised as key factors in the criminogenic profile of juvenile offenders.

Substance misuse Motivational interviewing represents a promising approach for juvenile offenders, particularly as a treatment for substance misuse. Employment and education Engaging juvenile offenders with education and skills-based training is an important component of successful rehabilitation, with positive engagement in meaningful activities associated with improvements in areas such as self-belief 86 and protection against future participation in criminal activities.

Delivery of therapeutic services Common challenges to a therapeutic youth justice pathway There are common obstacles to smooth care pathways between different parts of systems, such as in transitions between secure settings and the community, between prisons and secure psychiatric settings, and between child and adult services. Footnotes Declaration of interests S. References 1. Muncie J, Goldson B.

Comparative Youth Justice. Sage, A study of the multiple and complex needs of Australian young adult offenders. Austral Psychologist ; 48 : — Office of the Children's Commissioner, Mental health service needs of juvenile offenders: a comparison of detention, incarceration, and treatment settings. Complex health needs in the youth justice system: a survey of community-based and custodial offenders.

J Adolesc Health ; 54 : —6. Prevalence of mental illness and substance abuse disorders among incarcerated juvenile offenders in Mississippi. Child Psychiatry Hum Dev ; 35 : 55— Young offenders in custody: an international comparison of mental health services.

Juvenile delinquent

Int J Forens Ment Health ; 10 : — Penal Reform International, Child delinquents: examining the market for criminal futures. Dev Behav ; 32 : — WHO, Piquero A, Steinberg L. Hazel AN.

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Cross-National Comparison of Youth Justice. Youth Justice Board, Streib VL.