By Tina Rosenberg
Juvenile justice is a field where the cure aggravates the disease. Take a kid of 15 or who shoplifts, gets into a fight, is caught with marijuana or is out at night spray-painting graffiti with a gang. He’s no hardened criminal — yet. After a tour through the juvenile justice system, however, he may well be. He’ll be mixed in with real criminals, in an environment where violence is the only path to respect. He’ll understand what society expects of him: more crime. Perhaps most important, he’ll have a criminal record — a major deterrent to getting a job.
On Saturday mornings at the H. Carl Moultrie Courthouse of Washington D.C.’s Superior Court, an alternative form of justice is at work. In the ground-floor courtrooms there are trials going on — with juries, defendants, bailiffs and judges. But everyone involved is a teenager.