Centennial Professor Of Law, University Of Minnesota Law School
- The three elements of juvenile justice help shape the understanding and portrayal of youth offenders are culpability, competence, and race.
In the review, “My Life in Crime: An Intellectual History of the Juvenile Court,” Feld examines changes in juvenile justice from his time studying the field. Feld notes three themes that have stood out:1) culpability, which refers to a juvenile’s criminal responsibility for the crime 2)competence, which refers to a juvenile’s ability to commit a crime and his or her understanding or ability to participate in the legal process 3)equity, which addresses race and gender issues. Feld notes when he first began in the field, there laws for juvenile justice did not exist. Courts began treating juveniles as adults in the eyes of the courts. At this time, Feld started publishing research and reports to properly represent juveniles who were not given the same rights as adults despite being sentenced as adults. As policies imposing harsher sentences to deter crime became a popular way of responding to juvenile offending, a new approach with a focus on protecting youth, especially the minorities that had become targets for harsh sentences, arose. This approach was based on new knowledge that juveniles were not the same as adults in their cognition and behavior and was supported by developmental psychology and neuroscience. This growth in knowledge resulted in policy and program changes that supported juvenile rehabilitation and re-evaluated juveniles’ culpability competence and equity in regards to crime. In conclusion, Feld notes the continued need for reformative justice for juveniles in order to stop cycles of crime and support minority youth.