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Individual differences

A model system does not treat all juveniles alike. It identifies pertinent individual differences—including differences in development, culture, gender, needs and strengths—and takes them into account in decision-making.

A juvenile justice system that distinguishes between individuals and responds appropriately to those distinctions will assess youth, make decisions on the basis of those assessments, and develop the programs and services necessary to respond to the needs it identifies.

Assessment and decision-making practices:

  • Structured screening and assessment at key stages
  • Structured decision-making criteria and protocols
  • Professional training in screening and assessment
  • Developmental training for judges, attorneys, probation officers, etc.
  • Policies and procedures that strike a balance in favor of individualized over purely offense-based decision-making

Service/program development practices:

  • Ongoing data collection and other mechanisms for assessing aggregate need and developing services and programs for special populations
  • A continuum of program and service options capable of providing flexibility to accommodate individual differences


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Models for Change is supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, website operated by Justice Policy Institute.