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Juvenile justice Swedish style: A rose by another name? *

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American juvenile courts are neither real courts nor a social welfare system. Rather they combine social welfare and social control, and virtually assure that neither purpose will be achieved. Sweden, by contrast, formally attempts to uncouple social welfare from penal social control by providing a social welfare system that nominally responds to youths on the basis of their service needs, not their criminal behavior. Sweden also does not have juvenile courts; youths age 15 and older are tried in the same criminal justice system as other offenders. Yet Sweden formally recognizes that youthfulness mitigates criminal responsibility, and provides shorter sentences for young offenders because of their reduced culpability. Despite Sweden's attempts to separate welfare from criminal social control for young offenders, a youth's crime and recidivism are linked closely to compulsory “treatment” in the welfare system. Sweden's welfare and criminal justice systems initially appear to differ significantly from American juvenile courts, but the compulsory provisions of its welfare system operate in remarkably similar fashion. Recent legislative reforms acknowledge that a welfare ideology masks the connection between offense and sanction, and propose that coercive sanctions be applied only by criminal courts.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Minnesota Law School

Publication date: 01 December 1994

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