A Systematic Observational Study of a Juvenile Drug Court Judge

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The shift of the juvenile justice system from its initial rehabilitative ideal toward a more punitive orientation highlights the need to systematically document key elements of the juvenile drug court model. In particular, it is important to clearly document the role of the juvenile court judge because he or she is considered vital to this program model. The current study used participant observation as well as confidential questionnaires on which youth shared their perceptions of the judge. Findings show the judge-participant interactions typically were brief, varied by the participants' level of compliance with the program, and that sanctions were given twice as often as rewards. Youth perceived the judge to be fair, respectful, and concerned about their lives. Discussion focuses on the significant opportunity that juvenile drug court judges have for positively influencing the lives of drug-involved youth.



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