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J Am Acad Psychiatry Law. 2007;35(2):158-67.

Progress and perils in the juvenile justice and mental health movement.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, University of Massachusetts Medical School, 55 Lake Avenue North, Worcester, MA 01655, USA.


The juvenile justice system in the United States is experiencing a social movement aimed at responding to the mental and emotional problems of delinquent youths. Ironically, this movement arose in the wake of a decade of reform in juvenile justice that had set aside the system's 100-year tradition of rehabilitation for delinquents in the interests of their punishment and a primary emphasis on public safety. This article describes the recent juvenile justice and mental health movement, discusses the circumstances that motivated it, and provides examples of its progress. Now that the movement has taken hold, however, its future is threatened by several unintended consequences of the motives and strategies of those who succeeded in promoting the movement. Those potential perils are described with an eye to reducing their impact, thereby sustaining the movement and its potentially positive effects.

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