At the pinnacle of this frenzied "get-tough era" in juvenile justice, the eminent forensic psychologist Tom Grisso authored Forensic Evaluation of Juveniles, a groundbreaking text that guided practitioners into the burgeoning niche of psychological evaluations in delinquency cases.
Now, in a major overhaul of that influential 1998 text, Grisso writes optimistically of a new trend in juvenile justice that he labels the "developmental era." Social science evidence about adolescent brain development and social maturation will contribute to greater judicial and societal recognition that much delinquency is time-limited, he believes. Although this new direction comes too late for the youths and families shattered by the get-tough policies of the past few decades, Grisso hopes that forensic psychology can help judges, probation officers and policy makers understand the potential of rehabilitation for today's wayward youth.
|Photo from Richard Ross's Juvenile In Justice photography project|
Grisso's practical guide strikes a humanistic tone, refreshing in a field increasingly infiltrated by a gloomy, pathologizing, technocratic worldview. The award-winning director of the Law-Psychiatry Program at the University of Massachusetts Medical School for example cautions evaluators to avoid simple tallies of actuarial risk factors in informing the court of a youth's risk. Rather, evaluators should understand and incorporate the two broad, and complementary, theories of delinquency: The biological and personality-oriented theories of psychology, and the social-environmental theories of criminology, such as the notion of "drift" into delinquency. Evaluators should also understand the individual child's context, and the factors that contribute not only to pathology but also to resilience in the face of adversity.
Disappointingly, given this humanistic tenor and discussion of racial and cultural issues, Grisso soft-pedals criticism of the growing practice of labeling juveniles as psychopaths. He describes evidence for the validity of the psychopathy construct in juveniles as "mixed," yet omits mention of the calamitous -- and often self-fulfilling -- consequences to youths when the psychopathy label is introduced in court.
Like the first edition, this is a practical manual that provides a clearly written historical overview of the field for novice practitioners, and useful review material for more seasoned juvenile evaluators. Chapters address specific types of evaluations, including competency to stand trial, waiver of Miranda rights, risk assessment, waiver to adult court, and rehabilitation and treatment recommendations. New statutes, case law, scientific findings and assessment methods are interwoven throughout, making this an indispensable addition to the juvenile evaluator's bookshelf.
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*The cases are Roper v. Simmons (2005), Graham v. Florida (2010), and Miller v. Alabama (2012), respectively.