Merlo Co-Authors Book on Gault Decision, Impact on Juvenile Justice

Posted on 5/15/2017 3:53:40 PM

Alida Merlo, a professor in Indiana University of Pennsylvania’s Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice, is co-author of a recently released book about the juvenile justice system.

Reaffirming Juvenile Justice The book, “Reaffirming Juvenile Justice: From Gault to Montgomery” coincides with the 50th anniversary of the landmark case “In re Gault,” which mandated specific due process protections for youth alleged to be delinquent. The book considers the evolving U.S. juvenile justice system while anticipating future challenges and trends.

Merlo attended a gala sponsored by the National Juvenile Defender Center in Washington, D.C. on May 15, “Gault at 50 Gala,” that marked the 50th anniversary of the “In re Gault” case. The event recognized Robert L. Listenbee, former administrator of the United States Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention; and Patricia Puritz, founder and former executive director of the National Juvenile Defender Center.

 “The juvenile justice system today is much different than the one that Gerald Gault experienced in 1967,” Merlo said. “Society recognizes that children and youth are different from adults and is much more aware of maltreatment of children and youth and its effects on subsequent offending. Increasingly, evidence based research and trauma informed care guide policy. Some of the harsh and punitive sanctions of the 1990s have been rescinded and replaced by a more balanced approach.”

The book discusses how, in the last half century, court decisions, delinquency trends, adolescent brain research, ideological considerations, politicized policymaking, and trauma informed care have influenced the direction of juvenile justice in the United States.

Merlo and co-author Peter Benekos suggest that the juvenile justice system has evolved from one seeking the best interests of wayward youth to one that punishes youthful offenders to one that employs evidence-based prevention and intervention strategies.

The book, in its review of 50 years of salient developments, demonstrates a trajectory that reaffirms juvenile justice as a system concerned with the well-being of children and youth, and one capable of—but not yet accomplished in—compassionate and competent care and supervision of delinquents.

Meda Chesney-Lind, professor of women’s studies at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, offers this comment about the book: ‘”Fifty years after the landmark Gault decision revolutionized juvenile justice, Merlo and Benekos undertake a sweeping and comprehensive review of that system. Reaffirming Juvenile Justice powerfully documents legal decisions and key policy debates in the decades that followed. A must-read for those concerned about how the United States treats its most vulnerable youth.”

Benekos is professor emeritus of criminology and criminal justice at Mercyhurst University, Erie.

The book is published by Taylor & Francis Group.