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Juvenile Justice

  1. Marc Ramsay

Published Online: 1 FEB 2013

DOI: 10.1002/9781444367072.wbiee365

The International Encyclopedia of Ethics

How to Cite

Ramsay, M. 2013. Juvenile Justice. The International Encyclopedia of Ethics. .

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 1 FEB 2013


Juvenile justice concerns how society should deal with pre-adults who are alleged to have violated penal laws. The juvenile justice debate is dominated by two moral ideals. First, there is the broad idea of just deserts or retribution – all persons who commit an offense should receive a punishment that is proportionate to the severity of that offense (see Justice; Punishment; Retribution). Second, just punishment also requires genuine responsibility – blame for a wrongful act may be diminished or eliminated if a person lacks appropriate responsibility (see Responsibility). To be responsible for an act, one must have an appropriate level of understanding, rationality, and self-control. Children's diminished responsibility has often been used to justify some form of “welfarism,” the idea that the law should protect, rehabilitate, and educate juvenile offenders. Traditionally, welfarism has been implemented through a separate penal system designed around juveniles' needs and capacities. However, while they prioritize welfarist goals over punishment, many welfarists endorse some level of retributive punishment for juvenile offenders.


  • legal and political;
  • normative ethics;
  • children