War on Kids : How American Juvenile Justice Lost Its Way
by Drinan, Cara H.

Note on Sourcesxi
1 Pioneer to Pariah: The Arc of American Juvenile Justice
2 Crime as a Child's Destiny
3 Legal and Policy Paths to Juvenile Incarceration
4 Life While Down
5 Progress and Hope from the Nation's High Court
6 The Uneven and Unpredictable Path of Implementation
7 The War for Kids

In 2003, when Terrence Graham was sixteen, he and three other teens attempted to rob a barbeque restaurant in Jacksonville, Florida. Though they left with no money, and no one was seriously injured, Terrence was sentenced to die in prison for his involvement in that crime.

As shocking as Terrence's sentence sounds, it is merely a symptom of contemporary American juvenile justice practices. In the United States, adolescents are routinely transferred out of juvenile court and into adult criminal court without any judicial oversight. Once in adult court, children can be sentenced without regard for their youth. Juveniles are housed in adult correctional facilities, they may be held in solitary confinement, and they experience the highest rates of sexual and physical assault among inmates. Until 2005, children convicted in America's courts were subject to the death penalty; today, they still may be sentenced to die in prison-no matter what efforts they make to rehabilitate themselves. America has waged a war on kids.

In The War on Kids, Cara Drinan reveals how the United States went from being a pioneer to an international pariah in its juvenile sentencing practices. Academics and journalists have long recognized the failings of juvenile justice practices in this country and have called for change. Despite the uncertain political climate, there is hope that recent Supreme Court decisions may finally make those calls a reality. The War on Kids seizes upon this moment of judicial and political recognition that children are different in the eyes of the law. Drinan chronicles the shortcomings of juvenile justice by drawing upon social science, legal decisions, and first-hand correspondence with Terrence and others like him-individuals whose adolescent errors have cost them their lives. At the same time, The War on Kids maps out concrete steps that states can take to correct the course of American juvenile justice.

Cara Drinan is a Professor of Law at Catholic University and a nationally recognized expert on the Sixth Amendment right to counsel, juvenile sentencing, and criminal justice reform. She is especially interested in giving voice to those whose lives have been shaped by the mass incarceration phenomenon.

Drinan outlines a compelling and urgent case for U.S. juvenile justice reform. A law professor at Catholic University, Drinan was inspired by the Supreme Court case Graham v. Florida, which held that sentences of life without parole for juveniles convicted of nonhomicide crimes constitute cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment. Drinan tells plaintiff Terrence Graham's story as a way to understand the realities of juvenile justice today. She explores the sociological factors that influence youth criminal activity and the mitigating factors that are often ignored in adult courts. She examines the school-to-prison pipeline, how courts treat juveniles from varying socioeconomic and racial backgrounds differently, and the impact of transfer laws. In addition to looking frankly at the horrors of life in prison, Drinan outlines positive steps that can be taken toward juvenile-justice reform. Her well-researched and engaging book, which includes discussion of case law as well as interviews with incarcerated children and their families, is a necessary read for understanding a major threat to youth in America today. Copyright 2017 Booklist Reviews.

An expert on juvenile sentencing and criminal justice reform asserts that the American juvenile justice system, once a world leader, is now in dire need of reform."My aim in this book," writes Drinan (Law Professor/Catholic Univ.), "is to shine a light on the reality of juvenile sentencing practices in America, to humanize the experiences of those juveniles within the system, and to contribute to the momentum for juvenile justice reform." She explores the dynamics of a system still meting out harsh treatment to child defendants despite recent promising Supreme Court decisions on juvenile sentencing laws. In its Graham v. Florida (2010) and Miller v. Alabama (2012) rulings, the court struck down a majority of the states' juvenile sentencing laws, outlawing life-without-parole for juveniles who commit nonhomicide offenses and mandating individualized sentencing for those children who commit even the most serious crimes. However, as Drinan amply shows, implementation of these de cisions has been unpredictable, slow, and uneven. The author points to the roles played by race, poverty, incarceration of parents, and exposure to violence in the lives of young offenders and examines the legal and policy decisions that determine their fates. Drinan makes clear that she is not arguing that society give young offenders a pass but that "society has an obligation to intervene in these children's lives long before they commit criminal acts." Throughout the book, interviews with incarcerated youth add a necessary intimate, human touch. The author explains the relevant Supreme Court cases, reveals the ways in which juveniles cope physically and mentally with imprisonment, and considers prospects for reform. After depicting how states have failed and emphasizing that "no child is born bad," Drinan outlines the steps that states can take to ensure age-appropriate sentencing. A clear, concise, well-organized call for action designed to reach a general audience. Copyright Kirkus 2017 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

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