Contemporary Issues in Juvenile Justice


Conduct disorder is a constellation of continuous emotional and behavioral problems observed in children and adolescents, which may involve violent and non-violent antisocial behaviors. The symptomology of this psychological disorder includes: disregarding rules without clear reason, cruel or aggressive behavior toward people or animals (e.g., bullying, fighting, using dangerous weapons, forcing sexual activity, and stealing), skipping school, excessive substance use, pathological lying, manipulation, running away, and vandalism (American Psychiatric Association (APA), 2013). Texas Juvenile Mental Health Courts are designed to reduce the number of detained youth, divert at-risk children, maintain community safety, and utilize multidisciplinary approaches to treat conduct disordered youth. However, Texas Juvenile Mental Health Courts deny juveniles admission into their programs if they have a history of violent referrals, property offenses, sexual offenses, or significant gang involvement. This article questions the practice of mental health courts and how this particular practice may directly or indirectly affect youth suffering from conduct disorder. The policy recommendations are discussed after this examination.