Beth Caldwell


Media representations of youth as “superpredators” and “monsters” fuel public fear of juvenile offenders. These depictions infiltrate public consciousness and promote widespread misconceptions about the prevalence of youth crime and the nature of juvenile delinquents. In public discourse, youth who break the law are characterized as hardened criminals who will continue to prey upon innocent victims unless they are incarcerated. However, a closer examination of the life stories of young people who commit serious crimes reveals histories characterized a lawyer’s job is to uncover these stories and to tell them in a compelling way. The effective presentation of mitigating information can pierce the initial tendency of a judge or prosecutor to view a defendant as unequivocally deserving of retribution. Shifting the perceptions of those with the power to make key decisions can dramatically impact the outcome of a case. It may result in the chance to remain in juvenile court rather than be transferred to adult court, better plea bargain offers, or sentences focused more on rehabilitation than on long prison sentences.

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