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Reform Juvenile Justice Now: A Judge’s Timely Advice for Drastic System Change

Reform Juvenile Justice Now: A Judge’s Timely Advice for Drastic System Change

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Reform Juvenile Justice Now: A Judge’s Timely Advice for Drastic System Change

128 pagine
1 ora
Feb 22, 2012


This is a golden era for juvenile justice reform in America. Both the Left and the Right, are demanding change. Now nationally acclaimed Judge Steven Teske, a juvenile court judge, provides a no nonsense prescription for change. With easy to understand examples, he takes aim at the flawed thinking, which has made the system a mess and then provides best practice, research based insights for change, including (1) Developing Alternatives to Incarceration (2) Ending Zero Tolerance in Schools (3) Being Smart about Bullying (4) Ending the Jailing of Kids Who Make Us Mad (5)Taking a Stand Against the Politics of Fear and (6) Demanding Parental Involvement. Finally, for the sake of all kids and families, he calls for each of us to be responsible for making positive change happen.

Feb 22, 2012

Informazioni sull'autore

Judge Steven C. Teske is the Chief Judge of the Juvenile Court of Clayton County, GA, and serves regularly as a Superior Court Judge by designation. He was appointed juvenile judge in 1999. Teske earned his Bachelor's, Master's, and Juris Doctor degrees from Georgia State University. He was a Chief Parole Officer in Atlanta, Deputy Director of Field Services of the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles, and a trial attorney in the law firm of Boswell & Teske LLP. He also served as a Special Assistant Attorney General prosecuting child abuse and neglect cases and representing state employees and agencies in federal and state court cases. Teske is a past president of the Council of Juvenile Court Judges and has been appointed by the Governor to the Children & Youth Coordinating Council, DJJ Judicial Advisory Council, Commission on Family Violence, and the Governor's Office for Children and Families. He has written articles on juvenile reform published in Juvenile and Family Law Journal, Juvenile Justice and Family Today, Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Nursing, and the Georgia Bar Journal. He serves his community in numerous other capacities including past president of the Southern Crescent Humanity for Humanity and is currently on the advisory board.

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Reform Juvenile Justice Now - Steven C. Teske





A Judge’s Timely Advice for Drastic System Change


Demand Alternatives to Incarceration

End Zero Tolerance in Schools

Be Smart about Bullying

Don’t Jail Kids Who Make Us Mad

Take a Stand Against the Politics of Fear

Be Responsible for Positive Change

Push for Parental and Guardian Participation

Judge Steven C. Teske


Reform Juvenile Justice Now

Published by the Center for Sustainable Journalism at Kennesaw State University at Smashwords

Copyright 2012 The Center for Sustainable Journalism at Kennesaw State University

ISBN: 978-1-4660-0475-7


Cover photograph: Copyright Richard Ross,

Cover design: Brian Donahue

eBook Formatting: Robert S. Mellis

Keep current on juvenile justice issues at


License Notes

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you're reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.



To my parents for showing patience, giving strength, teaching compassion, suffering my adolescent gratifications, and for being parents - not friends. If only all children could be so fortunate!


Table of Contents

Chapter 1: The System Is Broken, Demand Drastic Change

Time to Imagine a Better World

It’s Time to Get Real about Kids and Detention

Chapter 2: Zero Tolerance – A Legal Monstrosity that Must Be Fixed

The Zero Tolerance Paradox

Protect the Sheep from the Wolves: How Zero Tolerance Misses the Mark

The Good Shepherd

Who Will Defend the Children in the Era of Zero Tolerance?

Chapter 3: Understanding and Dealing with Bullying

Bullying Research

Judge Teske: A Personal Experience

Zero Tolerance and Bullying

Chapter 4: Kids Who Make Us Mad vs. Kids Who Scare Us: Reform Demands Knowing the Difference

Making Adults Mad – When Did That Become a Crime?

The Tragic Shooting Death of a Deputy and the Boy Accused of Killing Him

The Many Ironies of Juvenile Detention

The Road to Jericho

Chapter 5: The Politics of Fear: We Must Take a Stand for the Kids

The Politics of Fear: Debunking the Superpredator Myth

The Road Less Traveled to Make Good Law for Kids

The Two Faces of Juvenile Justice

Chapter 6: Fix the System by Taking Responsibility

Blame Game – The Winner Loses and The Kids are Hurt

The Silent Majority

Chapter 7: Parents and Guardians Must Be Part of the Positive Change

Mother’s Day and Mom’s Tough Love

On Fathers, Sons and Growing Up

Build Not a Foundation of Sand




Judge Steven C. Teske is the Chief Judge of the Juvenile Court of Clayton County, Georgia, and serves regularly as a Superior Court Judge by designation. His writings are well respected throughout the nation’s juvenile justice community. What he writes here is especially important because we are at a time when policymakers and lawmakers from both the right and left see the need for societal, ethical and financial change in the areas of youth justice. His strong voice and pointed views can help move this change forward in a way to best serve society and youth. It is a must read for anyone interested in best practices in juvenile justice.

Judge Teske’s juvenile justice columns appear regularly at the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange,, a national powerhouse for covering youth justice issues and for convening the public around those issues. The is published by the Center for Sustainable Journalism at Kennesaw State University, outside of Atlanta. To keep current on Judge Teske’s ideas and opinions and all things having to do with juvenile justice please visit the frequently.

Leonard Witt – Executive Director of the Center for Sustainable Journalism


Chapter 1: The System Is Broken, Demand Drastic Change

Time to Imagine a Better World

Let’s face it — the practice of juvenile justice does not work for the most part. I applaud the efforts of those pushing our juvenile code rewrite here in Georgia and elsewhere, but will the changes produce drastic outcomes for delinquent youth?  Drastic outcomes require drastic changes — I mean controversial and blasphemous changes!

To achieve drastic outcomes, we have to change the starting place. We already know — or should know — what to do with delinquent youth. The question is where do we do what with them?  Despite the significant progress to develop effective community-based programs such as cognitive behavioral training, Multi-Systemic Therapy (MST), and Functional Family Therapy (FFT), they become insignificant if the costs to support them are dedicated to the bricks and mortar to house youth.

This is exacerbated knowing that secure facilities have the worse recidivist rates and house mostly non-violent youth. For example, in 2007 only 12 percent of all committed youth in the United States were convicted of a violent index offense and only 10.9 percent represent assault related offenses. How do we get to a point where we incarcerate so many non-violent youth — an overwhelming 77.1percent?

The recent Annie E. Casey publication titled No Place for Kids: The Case for Reducing Juvenile Incarceration suggests–with evidentiary support — that we incarcerate non-violent youth for one or more reasons. First, judges complain of a lack of services. When a judge knows what a kid needs and the services are not available, a judge is going to err on the side of caution — community safety — and commit. As former New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman once observed, when judges are not afforded many options between probation and incarceration, That’s like choosing between aspirin or a lobotomy for a migraine.  Our juvenile justice system is in peril because it paralyzes our youth — we are lobotomizing them because we don’t have enough aspirin.

Second, judges and probation officers are incentivized to over-commit. In most states, local courts are required to fund probation and treatment programs with no financial supplement from the state. Although community programs are cost effective, they still cost. The choice to commit becomes inviting when it does not cost the local government. For the probation officer, the incentive to commit is a smaller caseload — that’s one less on my caseload!

Third, with the deterioration of mental health services for youth across this country, judges have been placed in the awkward position to dump youth with mental health disorders in the juvenile justice system. This dumping ground effect increases in size as we widen the net.

For example, school systems and child welfare agencies have looked to the courts to address their perceived problems. We know that abused and neglected kids in foster care are more likely to be arrested as juveniles. It becomes easier for many child welfare case managers to abandon their kid to the juvenile justice system when they act out.

Zero tolerance policies in schools have led to dumping minor school related offenses in court. As the net widens, more kids are on the radar for commitment consideration. Many of the kids referred to juvenile court have emotional behavioral disorders and learning disabilities — a difficult population that increases the risk for commitment.

Finally, there are those kids who are committed to a secure facility because they made the probation officer or judge mad. Approximately 12 percent of incarcerated kids are technical violators and status offenders and the underlying offenses for most of these kids are non-violent.

They are the P.O.A. kids — the Piss Off Adult kids. They defy the technical rules of probation and it frustrates the probation officer and judge. They are committed believing their defiance is an indicator of re-offending when research shows that institutional non-compliance is not very predictive of the risk of recidivism.

It shouldn’t be a surprise to the grownups that these kids have issues underlying their defiant personalities — drugs, neglect, abuse, family dysfunction, learning disabilities, and other trauma — and in their neurologically-limited capacity to cope, they cry out for help using a language of anger and we respond in kind.

There are better responses to a kid’s anger that is grounded in a simple technique — listening. Over 12 years on the bench I have heard many kids spew awful and vulgar words as the deputy stands guard with eyebrows raised waiting in anticipation for those words from my mouth — lock him up! — that never came out.

Our contempt laws oblige us to give a warning — a second chance — to violators before we find them in direct

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