What's Wrong with Victims' Rights in Juvenile Court?: Retributive Versus Rehabilitative Systems of Justice

09 Aug 2009 07:43pm Kristin Henning 

There has been very little discussion about the intersection of victims’ rights and the juvenile justice system. Statutes that allow victims to attend juvenile hearings and present oral and written impact statements have shifted the juvenile court’s priorities and altered the way judges think about young offenders. While judges were once primarily concerned with the best interests of the delinquent child, victims’ rights legislation now requires juvenile courts to balance the rehabilitative needs of the child with other competing interests such as accountability to the victim and restoration of communities impacted by crime.

In this article, Professor Henning contends that victim impact statements move the juvenile court too far away from its original mission and ignore the child’s often diminished culpability in delinquent behavior. She also argues that victim impact statements delivered in the highly charged environment of the courtroom are unlikely to achieve the satisfaction and catharsis victims seek after crime. Professor Henning proposes that victim impact statements be excluded from the juvenile disposition hearing and incorporated into the child’s long-term treatment plan.

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