Juvenile Justice 2016

In 2016, a significant Supreme Court case, executive action and congressional consideration of an omnibus bill all focus on aspects of juvenile justice. Explore the history of punishment, advances in rehabilitation and changes in confinement of youth.
Download Classroom Worksheets (PDF) 

Juvenile Justice is in the news as 2016 begins. President Obama has taken executive action against solitary confinement of juveniles in federal prisons. Congress is considering an omnibus bill to reform sentencing, including that of juveniles. And the Supreme Court has ruled in Montgomery v. Louisiana that inmates who were juveniles when they were sentenced to mandatory life imprisonment may retroactively appeal their sentences.


Suggested activities and articles in this guide include YOU and YOUR RIGHTS, a historic look at the punitive treatment of youth and legal handling before 1899, in 1899 and in 1964. Post articles, editorials and commentary stimulate discussion, debate and decisions about recidivism and reform on the national, state and local stage.


Students are asked to read data and create graphics. In 2012, approximately 1.3 million juveniles were arrested across the country, yet the number of juvenile arrests is down 40 percent since 2006 and down 53 percent since 1997, according to the Coalition for Public Safety. These individuals call for a look at the psychological and educational attention given to young offenders.



February 2016

The Court's Decisions
Resource Graphic 

Develop Vocabulary
English, Government, U.S. History

Students should know the terminology used within different areas of study. In the Know provides vocabulary used in many of the articles related to criminal and juvenile justice. Teachers are encouraged to use and review these terms with students.


Check On Jobs
Career Education, Social Studies

Discuss the terms “juvenile justice,” “juvenile court system” and “protective services” with students. “U.S. courts handled more than 4,100 juvenile delinquency cases per day as of 2009,” according to a 2012 report of The National Center for Juvenile Justice. Even with the lower number of juveniles confined annually since then, there are many jobs generated to handle the different needs.


What careers are available related to juvenile justice? These would include case manager, correctional officer, family case manager, field supervisor — juvenile probation, judge, law enforcement officer, lawyer, probation officer, social worker. There are schools and libraries in correctional facilities that have openings for principals, counselors, teachers and librarians.


Ask students to do a Web search for employment related to juvenile justice. What are the educational and experiential requirements for employment? The salary range? Are internships available? Areas to consider include location, opportunities for advancement, mentoring and diversity (gender, race, sex).


Get Solitary Perspective
English, Journalism, Social Studies, U.S. History

In February 2013, columnist George Will wrote “The torture of solitary confinement.” He uses the movie “Zero Dark Thirty” as the springboard from which to address the topic. Although the focus is on incarcerated adults, he provides historic and legal perspective on solitary confinement that applied to juveniles.


Analyze the Latest on Solitary Confinement
English, Government, Journalism, Media Arts

In late January 2016, President Obama announced a ban on solitary confinement for juvenile offenders in the federal prison system. News reports, editorials, columns and guest commentary presented this story and responded to it.


Teachers should make sure students understand the different forms or genre of journalism. Reporters are expected to present the facts in an unbiased manner. Editorials are expected to use data, do research and provide reasoned opinion. Columnists and guest commentators provide personal perspectives on topics.


Read “Obama enacts prison reforms” for the news. President Obama provides Post readers with his reasoning to ban solitary confinement for juvenile offenders in the federal prison system in “Rethinking solitary confinement.” Also read The Post editorial, “Solitary ‘as a measure of last resort.’”


Teachers should note that President Obama’s online essay includes a video link to his speech to members of the National Association of the Advancement of Colored People in July 2015 where he called for criminal justice reform.


 Give students “Take a Closer Look: Solitary Confinement.” This discussion guide includes the three selections — their content and construction.


Analyze an Editorial
English, Journalism, Social Studies, U.S. History

Compare and contrast an earlier Post editorial, “Rethinking solitary confinement,” October 19, 2014, with the 2016 editorial, “Solitary ‘as a measure of last resort.’”
• Has The Post’s point of view changed?
• Have more recent developments and studies influenced The Post’s perspective?

Youth, Prison and Justice
Resource Graphic 

Begin Juvenile Court
Government, Journalism, Social Studies, U.S. History

The Chicago Tribune in June 2014 put recent cases of two 12-year-olds stabbing a classmate into historic perspective. Read “Chicago ushers in new era in 1899 with nation’s first juvenile court.” Discuss with students the 1899 first case heard in the new juvenile court. Questions would include:
• What is the “revolutionary” idea introduced in Chicago?
• What is added to the article by citing examples of juvenile treatment in the courts before 1899?
• What is student reaction to the manner in which young people were treated by the courts before 1899? Necessary or excessive?
• What is a socialite? What impact did socialites have on the treatment of juveniles?
• What is the reference to “Dickensian tragedies”


Understand Your Rights
Government, Social Studies, U.S. History

Considering juveniles as more than the property of their parents and guardians in the courts began in 1899. In 1964, the next major step to juvenile justice took place when the Supreme Court agreed to hear In re Gault. YOU and YOUR RIGHTS is a three-part introduction to this case and due process for juveniles.


 “You Be the Judge,” part one, lists the series of actions that took place. Teachers might move through the steps with students to capture the unfolding of events in the teenager’s life. The ABA Law Day online resources offers a less extensive list and the suggestion that students identify actions as Fair and Unfair. This leads to an understanding of due process. 


Juveniles and Justice in 1964 and Before,” part two, provides a summary of the changing view of children and teens in relation to the law. See 1964 for the decision of the Arizona judge who heard Gault’s case. Teachers should reinforce the changing perspectives from property and punishment to individuals and rehabilitation. A secondary topic of consideration might be the success then and now in making youth offenders productive members of society.


In re Gault and the Supreme Court,” part three, is a quiz to see if students understand the main points of this important Supreme Court case for establishing the due process rights of juveniles.



Change Juvenile Law
Government, Journalism, Political Science, Social Studies, U.S. History

Forty years after the Supreme Court case, Gerry Gault agreed to be interviewed by Jackie Baillargeon, Director of the Gideon Project of the Open Society Institute. Listen to the interview and read the transcript at “Gault Case Changed Juvenile Law.”


In addition to Gault, New York University Law Professor Norman Dorsen, Orleans Parish Juvenile Court Judge David Bell and Tamara Steckler, attorney-in-charge, Juvenile Rights Division, Legal Aid Society, are interviewed.
• What does each panelist add to students’ understanding of the case?
• How has handling of juvenile cases changed in the 40 years?


Assess Solitary Confinement
Debate, English, Political Science, U.S. History, Government

“It’s an awful thing, solitary,” John McCain wrote of his time as a prisoner of war. “It crushes your spirit and weakens your resistance more effectively than any other form of mistreatment.” He was a U.S. Naval Academy graduate and had served in the Navy for nine years before being captured by the North Vietnamese. Consider the impact of solitary confinement on teenagers.


Review the news articles, editorials, column, blogs and commentary, and studies done on juveniles and solitary confinement. Summarize your conclusions. Write an editorial or column, prepare a short broadcast commentary or prepare a radio spot on the subject of solitary confinement for incarcerated juveniles. Consider the different perspectives and debate the validity of solitary confinement for juveniles.

Read About Juvenile Justice

Get Graphic
Government, Journalism, Mathematics, U.S. History

The “Juvenile Confinement” activity provides students practice in reading graphs and making graphs. Three reliable sources to get data about youth offenders and youth confinement are used: The U.S. Census Bureau, the Department of Justice Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, and the FBI. The last exercise asks students to use data and a press release to reach a conclusion.


Use Data and Experience
Economics, Government, Journalism, U.S. History

Reform of the criminal justice system is a complex area of study with differing perspectives on areas such as rehabilitation and recidivism, use of solitary confinement, value of continuing education classes, the role of family contact, sentencing discretion by judges, mandatory minimum sentences and mandatory life sentences.

Differences exist between local, state and federal penal systems. Teachers could ask students to work in research teams to explore all three levels or to examine different topics within the federal prison context. In the sidebar are a number of agencies and organizations that supply data, reports and studies. These could be starting points.

Do a search of The Washington Post for articles. These will be found in News and Metro sections primarily. Read and discuss these two examples:
• “Virginia awarded federal grant for juvenile re-entry services” by Jenna Portnoy, October 9, 2015
• “An unprecedented experiment in mass forgiveness,” by Rob Kuznia, February 8, 2016


Washington Post bloggers also cover these issues:
• “Throwing children in prison turns out to be a really bad idea” by WonkBlog writer Brad Plumer shares a 2013 study by two economists. Read and discuss the ideas presented on the impact of building “criminal capital.”


We also encourage reading and viewing for personal perspectives:

• “This political scientist spent a year in prison. Here’s what he learned.”
• “Phone calls won’t cost up to $14 a minute anymore but here’s how prisoners’ families are still being fleeced
Out of Jail, Into Society

Set Up an e-Replica Alert
Government, Journalism, Media Arts
On October 1, 2015, a bipartisan group of senators introduced an omnibus bill that includes reduction of mandatory minimum sentences for many drug crimes, limitation on solitary confinement for juvenile offenders, sealing and expunging more juvenile records and release of elderly prisoners.


Follow discussion and the progress of the federal “Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act” as it makes its way through Congress. Use the alert feature of The Post’s e-Replica program. Discuss with students the different terms that may get the most specific results.


Results might include news articles, oped pieces and commentary. In addition to the print edition of The Post check for blog postings on the topic. For example, on February 8, Fact Checker examined the arguments given by an opponent of the bill in “Sen. Tom Cotton’s claim that sentencing reform bill would release ‘thousands of violent felons.’”



Examine the Court’s Decision
Government, Political Science, U.S. History
In January 2016, the Supreme Court ruled on Montgomery v. Louisiana, a case that dealt with juveniles who had been sentenced to mandatory life imprisonment after they had spent years in prison. The case involved a 2012 ruling in Miller v. Alabama in which the Court had ruled out mandatory life imprisonment without parole for juveniles.


Read Post legal reporter Robert Barnes’ January 26, 2016, article, “Life terms for youths open for later review.” The case has been called a landmark decision. Have students summarize the decision, the majority opinion and the minority opinion.


After discussing the decision, ask students to indicate their viewpoint on how this decision relates to due process, public safety, rehabilitation and juvenile justice.



Consider Impact on States
Government, Political Science

Maryland and the District of Columbia do not have mandatory life-without-parole sentences for juveniles. Virginia does. Read and discuss the three articles that give different perspectives on the issue faced by the governor, state legislators, judges, inmates and their families.
• “Life terms for youths open for later review
• “Va. governor, GOP lawmakers seek common ground
• “Life terms of youths who murdered in limbo


What would students do if they were members of the state legislature? The governor? A Virginia Supreme Court judge? A family member?

Post NIE Guide Editor & Writer | Carol Lange
Post NIE Guide Art Editor | Carol Porter

Resource Graphic 
In The Know 

Adjudication Court process that determines (judges) if the juvenile committed the act with which he or she is charged 
Advocate Someone who pleads the cause of another especially in the legal context. A person, who assists, defends, pleads or prosecutes for the cause of another before a tribunal or judicial court; a lawyer
Committed Juveniles in placement in the facility as part of a court-ordered disposition. Committed juveniles may have been adjudicated and disposed in juvenile court or convicted and sentenced in criminal court.
Criminal homicide

Causing the death of another person without legal justification or accidentally killing someone as a consequence of reckless or grossly negligent conduct. It includes all conduct encompassed by the terms murder, nonnegligent (voluntary) manslaughter, manslaughter, negligent (involuntary) manslaughter and vehicular manslaughter. 

Criminal justice Broad term covering topics such as the procedure by which criminal conduct is investigated, evidence gathered, arrests made, charges brought, defenses raised, trials conducted, sentences rendered and punishment carried out. Research includes minorities in the juvenile justice system, juvenile court cases, juvenile offender characteristics and much more.
Delinquent act

An act committed by a child that is designated a violation, misdemeanor or felony offense under the law of a state or under federal law or a violation of a municipal curfew ordinances. Delinquent acts include crimes against persons, crimes against property, drug offenses, and crimes against public order, when juveniles commit such acts.

Due process A person has a right to fairness of treatment by the government.  Procedural due process requires fairness in the methods used to deprive a person of life, liberty or property, while substantive due process requires valid governmental justification for taking a person’s life, liberty or property. Due process requirements apply to both criminal and civil law. 
Heinous Hateful or shockingly evil; a grossly wicked or reprehensible action
Incarcerated Imprisoned or confined; holding may be in prisons, jails or residential institutions
Irretrievable depravity 

Depravity of mind refers to the state of mind that is contrary to justice, honesty or morality; shocking to the moral sense of the society

Juvenile A person who is under 18 years of age (may vary by state); for an alleged act of juvenile delinquency, a person who has not attained his twenty-first birthday is considered a juvenile for the purpose of proceedings and disposition
Juvenile offender A young defendant in a criminal case or a person convicted of a crime. In general, the criminal records of offenders are public records; however, state laws, which vary by state, allow for the sealing or expungment of juvenile records.
Long-term secure facility

Facility that provides strict confinement for its residents; includes training schools, reformatories, and juvenile correctional facilities.

Mandatory Required by law or rules; compulsory
Parole Release from prison but with conditions on future behavior
Punitive Intended to punish or correct; harsh or very severe
Recidivism A tendency to lapse into previous patterns of behavior; the rearrest, reconviction or reincarceration of former inmates. The effect of prison or jail sentences on recidivism is an important issue to those concerned with public safety and the cost-effectiveness of putting convicted offenders in prison.
Rehabilitation Basic educational training that will assist individuals in understanding the society to which they will return and that will assist them in understanding the magnitude of their offense and impact on society
Restrictive housing Any type of detention that involves: (1) removal from the general inmate population, whether voluntary or involuntary; (2) placement in a locked room or cell, whether alone or with another inmate; and (3) inability to leave the room or cell for the vast majority of the day, typically 22 hours or more. Restrictive housing takes many forms, and an inmate’s experience in segregation can vary considerably depending on certain external factors, such as the length of stay, conditions of confinement, and degree of social isolation, as well as factors specific to each inmate, such as age and psychological resiliency. 

Application of a given rule to events that took place before the law was in effect; extending into the past

Solitary confinement

An incarcerated person is kept in a cell without being able to see or speak to other prisoners. This is intended to discipline or influence the prisoner psychologically. 

Substantive Defining the rights and duties as opposed to giving the rules by which such things are established; important, real, meaningful
  SOURCE: U.S. Legal Definitions (http://definitions.uslegal.com); Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Glossary

ANSWERS. Juvenile Confinement.
1. A) More homicides took place between 1990 and 1994; B) Older juveniles, those ages 16 and 17, accounted for the largest share of both the increase and the decline (about 70%); C)Answers would include: Trends in the number of known juvenile homicide offenders followed a similar pattern for all age groups: the number of known juvenile homicide offenders increased for all age groups between 1984 and 1994 and then declined between 1994 and 2003. D) Overall, the number of known juvenile homicide offenders increased annually between 2003 and 2006, before declining through 2013. For 14, 15,and 16-year-olds, the number of known juvenile homicide offenders in 2013 was at the lowest level of the 34-year period.

2. See bar graph: Data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention show that youth confinement peaked in 1995, at 107,637 in confinement on a single day. Since 1995 the number of youth confined has dropped by nearly 37,000 to 70,792.

3. A. 57,190; B. public; C. Vermont (24), New Hampshire (77), Hawaii (84); D. California (8,895), Texas (4,840), Pennsylvania (3,662); E. Pennsylvania (94), California (92), New York (84); F. Answers will vary.

4. Students may use people or “prison bars” to present the data. The graph needs to clearly present information by year and by demography.

5. Answers will vary.


ANSWERS. You and Your Rights. Answers will vary. Students need to be able to support they judgment they give.

ANSWERS. In Re Gault and the Supreme Court
True/False. 1. False; 2. False; 3. True; 4. False; 5. True. Multiple Choice. 1. C; 2. B; 3. B; 4. A; 5. C.

District of Columbia Public Schools Academic Content Standards 

The District of Columbia has adopted the Common Core State Standards in reading and mathematics. In addition, DCPS has adopted new learning standards in arts, health and physical education, science, social studies, technology and world languages.



Academic Content Standards may be found at http://osse.dc.gov/service/dc-educational-standards.

Maryland Academic Content Standards 

Government, Political Science. The student will evaluate roles and policies the government has assumed regarding public issues. (1.1.3, Indicator)

• Health care and public health (costs, substance abuse, diseases)

• Crime (prevention, punishments)


Government, Political Science. The student will analyze the impact of landmark Supreme Court decisions on governmental powers, rights, and responsibilities of citizens in our changing society. (1.2.1, Indicator)


Government, Political Science. The student will evaluate the impact of government decisions and actions that have affected the rights of individuals and groups in American society and/or have affected maintaining order and/or safety (1.2.3)

• Presidential use of power and executive orders affecting rights, order, and/or safety.


The Maryland Voluntary State Curriculum Content Standards can be found online at http://mdk12.org/assessments/standards/9-12.html.

Virginia Academic Content Standards 

U.S. History and Social Science.  The student will apply social science skills to understand political and social conditions in the United States during the early twenty-first century by

a) assessing the development of and changes in domestic policies, with emphasis on the impact of the role of the United States Supreme Court played in defining a constitution right to privacy, affirming equal rights, and upholding the rule of law;

Government.11  The student will apply social science skills to understand civil liberties and civil rights by 

c) explaining how the Supreme Court has applied most of the protections of the Bill of Rights to the states through a process of selective incorporation;

d) investigating and evaluating the balance between individual liberties and the public interest;

e) examining how civil liberties and civil rights are protected under the law.



Academic Content Standards may be found at http://www.doe.virginia.gov/testing/index.shtml.

Common Core Standards 

History/Social Studies, Grades 11-12. Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary that makes clear the relationships among the key details and ideas.



History/Social Studies, Grades 11-12. Evaluate authors’ differing points of view on the same historical event or issue by assessing the authors’ claims, reasoning, and evidence. (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.11-12.6)


History/Social Studies, Grades 11-12. Integrate information from diverse sources, both primary and secondary, into a coherent understanding of an idea or event, noting discrepancies among sources. (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.11-12.9)


Common Core standards may be found at www.corestandards.org.