Contemporary Issues in Juvenile Justice


In the last two decades, the juvenile justice system has focused on the early identification of youth mental health to provide timely assessment and needed treatment. However, there are potential risks in divulging youth mental health status because the information is often made available to juvenile courts and probation departments. Many state statutes allow such information to be used in the admission of guilt, adjudication, and dispositional phases. The study reviewed state and federal statutes related to protections against self-incrimination of youth at eight different stages of the juvenile justice system. A systematic content analysis of secondary sources and legislative updates of current federal and state statutes revealed that only a handful of states provide complete protection against self-incrimination when youth disclose mental health information during mental health screening, assessments, and/or treatment. Policymakers should consider the extent to which a constitutionally protected right is circumvented in the name of mental health treatment.