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Courting Kids

Inside an Experimental Youth Court

Carla J. Barrett

Publication Year: 2012

Despite being labeled as adults, the approximately 200,000 youth under the age of 18 who are now prosecuted as adults each year in criminal court are still adolescents, and the contradiction of their legal labeling creates numerous problems and challenges. In Courting Kids Carla Barrett takes us behind the scenes of a unique judicial experiment called the Manhattan Youth Part, a specialized criminal court set aside for youth prosecuted as adults in New York City. Focusing on the lives of those coming through and working in the courtroom, Barrett’s ethnography is a study of a microcosm that reflects the costs, challenges, and consequences the “tough on crime” age has had, especially for male youth of color. She demonstrates how the court, through creative use of judicial discretion and the cultivation of an innovative courtroom culture, developed a set of strategies for handling “adult-juvenile ” cases that embraced, rather than denied, defendants’ adolescence.

Published by: NYU Press


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p. vii

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pp. ix-x

There are many people I wish to thank for helping to make this book possible. My time with two organizations — Save Our Sons and Daughters (SOSAD) in Detroit and the Harlem Writers Crew in New York — set me on this path originally. Thanks to Clementine, Terry, Greg, Andy, Avery, and all the kids for sharing your worlds...

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Introduction: An Experiment in Youth Justice

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pp. 1-20

Terell, a 15-year-old black Juvenile Offender, made his way hesitantly through the low gate in the courtroom when his name was called. Judge Michael Corriero looked over the notes in front of him. Terell had not been meeting the requirements...

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1. Calendar Days in the Youth Part: Mundanity and Drama

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pp. 21-43

“Calendars days” — usually Fridays — were set aside in the Manhattan Youth Part for the routine processing of ongoing cases. Sometimes there were new cases on for the first time, but the majority of cases on a typical calendar day were on for “control dates” or “updates” — checking in on cases awaiting the...

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2. Creating the “Juvenile Offender”

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pp. 44-60

New York’s 1978 Juvenile Offender Law was the first in the country that allowed criminal prosecution of youth under age 16 without juvenile court oversight. As such it represented a significant moment of rupture in the history of the American juvenile justice system.1 Fox Butterfield, Pulitzer Prize – winning...

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3. Rehabilitation, Youth Part Style

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pp. 61-88

When his name was called in the Youth Part, Simon, a black youth, strode from the audience where he had been waiting with his aunt and took a seat next to his lawyer. He moved with the confidence of a seasoned veteran of the court. The judge announced that Simon was ready for sentence and...

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4. Individualized Justice in a Criminal Court

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pp. 89-129

One of the main tenets of the early juvenile justice movement was the emphasis on the need for individualized justice — the idea that the punishments meted out or treatment and social welfare interventions prescribed for young offenders were to be based on the circumstances, history, and life conditions...

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5. Managing Contradictions

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pp. 130-151

The kids in the Manhattan Youth Part were teenagers and as such did not pay rent or have full-time jobs, and most were dependent upon parents or guardians for food, shelter, clothing, transportation, and the like. As non-adults, they were expected...

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6. Judging the Court, Judging Transfer

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pp. 152-166

My goal in this ethnography has been to document the law in action and shed light on how youths are constructed, or not constructed, as adults through the process of criminal prosecution. I tried to uncover how the criminal prosecution of adolescents was undertaken in one court in one jurisdiction and, in the...

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Conclusion: Kids Will Be Kids

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pp. 167-172

In late 2007, Judge Michael Corriero retired from the Supreme Court of New York. The work of the Manhattan Youth Part continues under the guidance of a new judge with new staff; another judge dedicated to the work of this specialized criminal court and, in his own unique way, to ideals of child-saving...


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pp. 173-192


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pp. 193-204


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pp. 205-208

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About the Author

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p. 209

Carla J. Barrett is Assistant Professor of Sociology at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York...

E-ISBN-13: 9780814760048
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814709467

Publication Year: 2012

OCLC Number: 843209618
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Courting Kids

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Subject Headings

  • Juvenile courts -- New York (State) -- New York County.
  • New York (State). Supreme Court.
  • Juvenile courts -- New York (State) -- New York.
  • Manhattan (New York, N.Y.).
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