University of the District of Columbia Law Review


Each year as a nation we prosecute over 800,000 children-nearly three percent of the juvenile population2 and detain over 200,000 of them.3 That is, we saddle almost three percent of our youth with the experience of being a defendant in court, with the label of delinquency. And we separate over a quarter of those youth from family and community for some period of time. The overwhelming majority of these children have experienced life-altering trauma in their young lives, and these experiences with the juvenile justice system can exacerbate that trauma.4 Yet,while we are affecting our young people on this massive scale, by and large we are not taking a hard look at whether we are making society safer or making those young people better off. The District of Columbia's ("the District") juvenile justice system purports to serve the children, victims, and communities involved sensitively and effectively as it reduces juvenile delinquency. Juvenile prosecutors all over the country, as in the District, are tasked with helping to maintain a system that both rehabilitates children and keeps communities safe.5 But we must be honest - most of what we are doing is not working.

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