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Closing the Widening Net: The Rights of Juveniles at Intake

Tamar R. Birckhead, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Abstract

Should juveniles have more, fewer, the same or different procedural rights than are accorded to adults? This question, posed by Professor Arnold Loewy for a panel at the 2013 Texas Tech Law Review Symposium on Juveniles and Criminal Law, requires us to examine our goals for the juvenile court system. My primary goal, having practiced in both adult criminal and juvenile delinquency forums for over twenty years, is to ensure that the reach of juvenile court is no wider than necessary, as research indicates that when children are processed through the juvenile court system and adjudicated delinquent, the impact is not benign. Potential negative consequences of juvenile delinquency adjudications are felt in such areas as housing, employment, immigration and education as well as enhanced penalties for future offenses. Further, longitudinal studies show that children exposed to juvenile court reoffend at higher rates and are stigmatized by even the most minimal contact with the juvenile court system.

This Article, the second in a series on the disproportionate representation of low-income children in the U.S. juvenile justice system, examines the intake process, which operates as one of the primary gateways to juvenile court. The Introduction describes a typical case, highlighting the shortcomings of the current process and the risks—short- and long-term—that they pose to juveniles. Part II presents the nuts and bolts of the intake stage, including details regarding who conducts the screening, its purpose, and the assessment criteria applied. Part III discusses the procedural rights of juveniles at intake according to the U.S. Supreme Court, state courts and legislatures. Part IV analyzes what can—and often does—go wrong with the intake process, resulting in a wider net being cast around minorities and low-income children and families. Part V offers proposals for reform, including providing counsel to children prior to intake; mandatory advising of children and their parents by the juvenile probation officer conducting the intake interview; and introducing an objective rubric for the evaluation of delinquency complaints by juvenile probation officers.

Suggested Citation

Tamar R. Birckhead. "Closing the Widening Net: The Rights of Juveniles at Intake" Texas Tech Law Review 46.Fall (2013).
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/tamar_birckhead/20