Youth and Justice Seminar



For over a century, the United States has wrestled with how to treat youth in the juvenile justice system, and many have questioned its effectiveness. This struggle centers on the tension between recognizing youth as developmentally distinct from adults, thus deserving of second chances and rehabilitative services, and historically and culturally driven notions of accountability, justice, and safety. This course will explore this tension and examine how that internal struggle has shaped the building of the juvenile justice system as a separate legal institution governed by unique criminal law, procedure, and policy. Students will gain an in-depth understanding of juvenile justice from policy and legal perspectives by analyzing case decisions, social science research, legal theory, and empirical studies. During this seminar, the class will probe questions such as: What does juvenile justice look like? How does the social construction of adolescence impact legal definitions? What role do the advances in science on brain development play in the administration of juvenile justice? How has race, gender, sexuality, gender identity, immigration status, and class impacted juvenile courts' jurisprudence? What factors have influenced the court's ever-shifting understanding of culpability by age? Where are the overlaps and intersections between the juvenile justice and adult criminal justice systems? What can we learn from how other countries react to youth committing bad acts?