Total Reform for a Broken System
: Nancy E. Dowd
A New Juvenile Justice System aims at nothing less than a complete reform of the existing system: not minor change or even significant overhaul, but the replacement of the existing system with a different vision. The authors in this volume—academics, activists, researchers, and those who serve in the existing system—all respond in this collection to the question of what the system should be. Uniformly, they agree that an ideal system should be centered around the principle of child well-being and the goal of helping kids to achieve productive lives as citizens and members of their communities. Rather than the existing system, with its punitive, destructive, undermining effect and uneven application by race and gender, these authors envision a system responsive to the needs of youth as well as to the community’s legitimate need for public safety. How, they ask, can the ideals of equality, freedom, liberty, and self-determination transform the system? How can we improve the odds that children who have been labeled as “delinquent” can make successful transitions to adulthood? And how can we create a system that relies on proven, family-focused interventions and creates opportunities for positive youth development? Drawing upon interdisciplinary work as well as on-the-ground programs and experience, the authors sketch out the broad parameters of such a system. Providing the principles, goals, and concrete means to achieve them, this volume imagines using our resources wisely and well to invest in all children and their potential to contribute and thrive in our society.