SAGE Journal Articles
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Abstract: Family courts are in use or are being considered in more than half of U.S. states, yet little research exists on their outcomes. This study examines effects of a policy change in one state, which created a pilot family court system. The policy change to family court mandates a more individualized client focus for these courts. Family courts are compared to juvenile courts in the processing of delinquency cases. Results of logistic regression show that family courts may be meeting the policy goals of individualized justice by accepting fewer plea bargains and by ordering more clinical assessments for juveniles and their families. Ultimately, however, there is no difference in sentencing outcomes between these two types of court structures. Policy implications are discussed.
Article 2: Harris, A. (2008). The social construction of “sophisticated” adolescents: How judges integrate juvenile and criminal justice decision-making models. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, 37(4), 469–506.
Abstract: This study investigates the types of decision-making models that frame people-processing decisions. An analysis of the judicial waiver hearing will be used as an example of such institutional processing. I investigate how decision makers engage in practical reasoning by exploring the methods they use to organize information about youth and accomplish their judicial duties. Observational and interview data from a case study of three juvenile courthouses in a California county are used to investigate official case processing. The study offers three important theoretical insights for research in sociology and criminology; a revised theoretical framework for understanding juvenile justice decision making that incorporates criminal justice frameworks, an analysis of how substantive factors (e.g., values, stereotypes, and assumptions) can enter into decision making, and an illustration of how decision making is organizationally situated.