In Their Own Words: Young People’s Experiences in the Criminal Justice System and Their Perceptions of Its Legitimacy
Published Dec 6, 2014, John Howard Association of Illinois
While there is a growing consensus that the country needs to re-examine the criminal justice system’s prosecution of serious young offenders, there is little documentation of how this population actually experiences and perceives the laws, policies, and practices that are intended to hold them accountable.
From a policymaking perspective, this lack of information weakens our ability to assess and improve the justice system’s response to serious crime committed by young people. How can we determine the impact of
criminal penalties on young people if we don’t understand what they know about the law? How do we know if the judicial system is doing a fair and effective job of holding serious young offenders accountable if we don’t question how this population experiences the judicial process? How can we understand the impact our correctional system has on this population if we don’t ask young prisoners to reflect on their experience of incarceration?
In this report, the John Howard Association (JHA), Illinois’ only independent prison watchdog and justice reform advocate, seeks to answer some of these questions as well as provide more general insight into how serious young offenders perceive the criminal justice system’s legitimacy.