IJA-ABA Standards for Juvenile Justice


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The American Bar Association Juvenile Justice Standards address the entire continuum of the juvenile justice system, from police handling and intake to adjudication, disposition, juvenile corrections, and appeals.


Developed in conjunction with the Institute for Judicial Administration, the standards were the result of several years of research, discussion and deliberation by 300 professionals in a variety of disciplines. The recurring themes in the IJA/ABA Juvenile Justice Standards hold that any intervention or encounter with youth should involve the least restrictive or least drastic alternative available to decision-makers throughout the system, and any sanction imposed on the youngster should be proportionate to the seriousness, or non-seriousness, of the offense. Sentences imposed by a court should be determinate, and not open-ended.


The IJA/ABA Joint Commission on Juvenile Justice Standards recommended the adoption of 23 volumes addressing the functioning of the juvenile justice system to the ABA House of Delegates in 1979. That year, the House approved 17 volumes of the standards and a year later, adopted three more. [Read a brief history of the development of the JJ standards.] Three volumes addressing child abuse and neglect, education and non-criminal misbehavior were withdrawn.


The standards are based on the concept that a family or juvenile court should be the centerpiece of any juvenile justice system, dealing with all but the most egregious offenses committed by youth, transferring those cases to the criminal justice system only after a comprehensive hearing. Provocative and transformative, they are available to judges and lawyers, law-makers, policy makers, teachers, administrators and other professionals to review and improve the juvenile justice system in their jurisdiction. [View a summary of the Juvenile Justice standards.]


Three decades of developments in law and sociological or psychological research implicate updating or revision of the standards. [Read a discussion of the standards and implications for revision.] The Criminal Justice Section has empaneled a task force to undertake that endeavor and it is underway.