Juvenile Justice System Case Study: A Needs-Based Recommendation

black Image of scales on white background with the words, "calibrate the scales" overlaid. As with any set of scales, the scales of justice must, from time to time, be recalibrated. Total balance is never achieved, but all in the criminal justice and legal systems must strive for it as much as possible.

In this case study, Xander L. is a juvenile repeat offender currently facing charges of possession of a handgun and purse snatching.  None of his prior arrests include violent acts, but he is a known gang member with involvement in drugs.

Living alone with his mother, Xander L. appears to want better, but does not manage to accomplish anything of substance.   He lives in public housing with his single working mother and has dropped out of school, but shows an interest in obtaining his general equivalency diploma (GED).  Xander L. is 17.

Intake and Diversion to Adult Court

Intake for Xander L. may surprise this young man. Louisiana Title 14, Part IV, subpart A, section 1, paragraph 95.8 requires that he be sent directly to adult court on the weapons charge.

“It is unlawful for any person who has not attained the age of seventeen years knowingly to possess any handgun on his person. Any person possessing any handgun in violation of this Section commits the offense of illegal possession of a handgun by a juvenile.”

Under this law, Xander L. is to be remanded to adult court for the weapons charge because he is 17. Ironically, he is still considered a minor when it comes to purchasing a handgun because Louisiana law requires an age of 21 for ownership.

However, as the Probation Officer assigned to his case has considered, there may yet be a way to help this young man turn his life around; perhaps this is a prime opportunity to force positive change upon him.

At this point, Xander L. has used up all his options; he will face criminal charges on this count and because he has already admitted guilt, a formal conviction is certain.  Convicted only on the illegal possession charge, he faces a modest fine along with 90 days to 6 months imprisonment.

Prior (Juvenile) Record Multiplies Sentencing Guidelines

However, if the court considers his prior juvenile record when sentencing, the fines are substantially increased and prison time rises to six months minimum and five years maximum. The purse snatching charge is considered a violent crime, according to Louisiana Revised Statute 14:2, Definitions 12 (B:24)

“In this Code, “crime of violence” means an offense that has, as an element, the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against the person or property of another, and that, by its very nature, involves a substantial risk that physical force against the person or property of another may be used in the course of committing the offense or an offense that involves the possession or use of a dangerous weapon. The following enumerated offenses and attempts to commit any of them are included as “crimes of violence”:

“(24) Purse snatching

Moving forward in the case study, the next stop for Xander L. in the Criminal Justice system will be an arraignment wherein he will enter a formal plea.  He will be assigned a Public Defender who will meet with the Prosecutor. Unless a plea bargain is arranged, he will go to court and likely prison (Champion, 2010).

However, the Probation Officer believes that this can be avoided and possibly advantageous for the young man and society.

Most current data indicate that should Xander L. be sent to an adult correctional facility, his chance of returning to the same lifestyle that placed him into the system is much higher (Redding, 1999).  Given this fact, it is in both the interests of the state and Xander L. to reach an agreement that will not only save a costly trial but also result in his receiving the kind of help that he needs to break away from a criminal lifestyle.

Case Study Sentencing Recommendation

In considering sentencing for Xander L. the probation office believes that the young man is not without hope of rehabilitation, but until present the system has failed him.

The causal link between gangs and violence is well-known.  In a study by Dorais and Corriveau on youth prostitution, the researchers noted that,

Street gangs have an allure to marginalized teenage boys seeking power, prestige, and a sense of belonging in a society that greatly reduces legitimate access to these desires. Moreover, gangs function as means for confirming gender identity, ostentatiously affirming erotic identity, creating an identity for the group, instilling social or territorial identity, strengthening ethnic or community identity, and providing income for their members” (Canadian Review of Sociology, 2009, p. 96).

Given that Xander L. has no father figure, a mother who works more than full time, and lives in public housing projects where gang affiliation is viewed as normal and virtually expected, it is little wonder that he has begun a criminal lifestyle.

The only viable solution for preventing future recidivism is to remove Xander L. from the environment that promotes and encourages crime and place him into a positive environment; he is in need of positive reinforcement.

Had the system placed him into a state-sponsored youth program earlier, he may not be in the system today.  Therefore, it is the recommendation of the probation office to offer an alternative of enlisting in Military service provided he can complete his general equivalency diploma (GED).  This is the last chance for both he and the system to work together to modify his life course.

Case Study Conclusion

Xander L. is a young man caught in the lifestyle of those with whom he spends the majority of his time.  He is a child of the projects, living according to the expected mores of many in his circle of influence.  Although his mother is a positive role model of him, a young man likewise needs such models among the males in his life.

Without positive male role models, he has turned to the criminal role models for his sense of identity and masculinity.  Identity and masculinity are inherent needs that can be met through the camaraderie of military service.  Should Xander L. manage to gain his High School Diploma, he will be a prime candidate for military service. This could help him gain positive control over his life and become a productive member of society.  The goal is to get him out of the system and never see him return.

Sadly, this is not likely to be the case.

You May Also Like to Read…

Criminal Justice Trends: Juveniles in Jail

Is it Possible to Prevent Juvenile Delinquency?

Juvenile Justice System Case Study: A Needs-Based Recommendation

Parens Patriae: Can the State be a Better Parent?

Recommendations for Improvements to the Juvenile Justice System

Understanding Juvenile Arrest Trends in 2008


  • Canadian Review of Socioliogy Book Review: Gangs and Girls. (2011). Canadian Sociological Association, 48(1), 95-100.
  • Champion, D. J. (2010). The Juvenile Justice System: Delinquency, Processing, and the Law (6th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentis Happ.
  • Redding, R. E. (April 1999). Examining Legal Issues:  Juvenile Offenders in Criminal Court and Adult Prison. Corrections Today, 61(2), 92.
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