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Juvenile Justice

Position in Brief

Action to support a juvenile justice system which provides for the protection of society along with the rehabilitation of juvenile law violators.

Action to encourage a greater acceptance by the schools of responsibility in the area of crime prevention.

Action to support the concept of the Family court as the proper place to deal with troubled youth.

Action to assure consistency in the juvenile justice system, while retaining the ability of the Family Court to take into consideration the age, level of maturity, and needs of each child before the court.

Action to support a waiver to adult court in certain circumstances. Waiver procedures should be based on written guidelines and be applicable only to 16- and 17-year-olds.

Action to assure that the community provides an adequate variety and number of services for children needing such services, and that any secure youth facility meets at least minimum standards for such facilities.


The purpose of the police, courts, and corrections components of the juvenile justice system are to protect society and to rehabilitate the juvenile law violator. Rehabilitation will sometimes include punishment. Punishment applied to juveniles should be humane, seek to avoid criminalization, promote the juvenile's potential for responsible behavior in relation to family and community, and be applied equally regardless of race, religion, sex, economic or social status. Successful rehabilitation of an individual is a form of prevention, since the rehabilitated individual will not commit crimes in the future. There should be periodic review of dispositions to be sure that treatment is being provided, that it is still necessary, and that there is continuity between agencies.

Ancillary components of the juvenile justice system — schools, social service agencies — must bear the responsibility of being effective in alleviating these youth's problems so that crime is likely to be prevented.

The League of Women Voters of Hawaii emphasizes the great responsibility of the school system to meet the learning needs of all children. From our Family Court observation program, the most significant problems for most of the children appearing before the court were school related, such as high absenteeism, low level of skills, and deep-seated frustration and hostility toward school. Children are required to attend school until the age of eighteen and the schools must accommodate themselves to the wide variety of children they serve. They must act to solve problems that they see quite early in their students and must assure that basic skills are taught. To these ends, the League of Women Voters of Hawaii supports alternate teaching methods and programs, effective monitoring of attendance, and implementation of the DOE-developed guidance program which suggests techniques for teachers and principals to use in dealing effectively with youngsters at different age levels. We also support provisions for adequate counseling services in the schools.

The League supports the concept of the Family Court and its premise that society should take the opportunity to guide youth while they are still malleable and not stigmatize youth with criminal labels. Thus, we would separate the very young from the adult systems and, at the same time, take pains to treat the problems of these youth. The League supports harsher sanctions for older youth who continue to break the law, especially in ways physically harmful to other people.

The League of Women Voters of Hawaii supports consistency in the full juvenile justice system, while still retaining the ability of the Family Court to consider the age, level of maturity, and individual problems of each child. Both society and the law violator should know what to expect from the juvenile justice system.

Police, probation officers, corrections officers, and judges should operate under general guidelines designed to give equitable treatment to all youth and to give consistent treatment to the single youth who encounters different people in the juvenile justice system. The principle of consistency requires good record-keeping, communication, and follow-up between all agencies dealing with a youth — including schools and social service agencies as well as police, courts, and corrections. Whatever consequences a youth must face, the consequences must be administered swiftly and surely. It is unreasonable to claim to be teaching responsibility to a young person while reacting to his offense in a ponderous or inconsistent manner.

Sentencing should be generally proportionate to the crime. There should be distinctions between those who commit violent crimes, repeat offenders, and other children who appear before the court.

The League of Women Voters of Hawaii supports a waiver procedure, based on written guidelines, and only for 16- and 17-year-olds. This means we oppose automatic waiver and support the Kent guidelines, which require the judge to consider the following factors:

  • The seriousness of the alleged offense
  • Whether the alleged offense was committed in an aggressive, violent, premeditated, or willful manner
  • Whether the alleged offense was against persons or property and what personal injury resulted
  • Whether the minor's accomplices were adults, and if so, whether it would be desirable to try them together in one court
  • The youth's history with the juvenile justice system
  • Prospects for adequate public protection and likelihood of reasonable rehabilitation through the means available to the Family Court

The League of Women Voters of Hawaii supports the provisions of an adequate variety and number of services in the community to rehabilitate offenders and assist children whose behavior suggest problems that might lead to crimes.

We expect increasingly serious consequences for the youth that does not respond to treatment. Hand in hand with that expectation must be a wide range of appropriate services to treat the youth, since, of course, he cannot respond to treatment that does not exist. Hawaii currently has an insufficient supply of services; the League's first priorities include support of the simultaneous development of such services and the immediate conversion of the Hawaii Youth Correctional Facility (HYCF) from a holding place into a treatment program.

Hawaii Youth Correctional Facility does not meet minimum standards for a secure facility. We are particularly concerned about the inadequacy of educational and social services. The secure facilities for those juveniles requiring incarceration should meet these minimum standards:

  1. Assure the rights of youth including:
    • Due process
    • Personal possessions
    • Privacy
    • Freedom of and from religion
    • Right to personal communications
    • Limitations and procedural requirements for discipline
    • Grievance and appeal mechanisms
    • Periodical review of placement
    • Bodily safety
  2. Assure the quality of rehabilitation programs, including:
    • Initial physical, mental, psychological evaluation
    • Recreation and exercise
    • Medical and dental care
    • Education for individual needs
    • Vocational training
    • Psychiatric and psychological services
    • Work-release and school-release programs
    • Follow-up after release
    • Additional help for youths at the crucial point when they leave institutional life and reenter society
  3. Assure the effectiveness of the facilities’ staff, including:
    • Ratio of staff to youth
    • Qualifications
    • Supervision
    • Accountability
  4. Assure that hard-core juvenile offenders are not locked up with other youths. In addition to the statewide League consensus, the Kauai League has arrived at a position that would support the use of a Kauai juvenile counselor for status offenders. The Hawaii County League has arrived at a position to support a secure facility on the island of Hawaii; this would eliminate the practice of sending youths from Hawaii to Oahu for lockup.

(Consensus, February 1981)


During 1978 and 1979 several factors worked together to stimulate interest in and support for a League study of Hawaii's juvenile justice system:

  1. Public opinion pools and the league Education Fund's Con Con project showed crime to be of major concern to the community. Statistics indicate that juveniles are a significant percentage of Hawaii's criminal statistics

  2. Member interest in the courts was stimulated by the League's participation in the Hawaii Crime Commission's pilot court observer program

  3. The League was offered the rare opportunity to place trained observers in the Family Court, which is not open to the general public

The state convention, in May 1979, featured an introduction to the various components of the juvenile justice system, and the delegates voted to adopt a study of the Hawaii juvenile justice system, focusing on law violators.

One year and a half of observing, interviewing, workshops, public forums, committee meetings, reading unit discussions, and Voter articles culminated in an extensive League consensus on juvenile justice in February 1981.

During this same time two booklets, Under Eighteen and Under Arrest – A Look at Hawaii's Juvenile Justice System, and Under Eighteen and under Arrest – Rights of Juveniles, were prepared and distributed to law enforcement officers, juvenile justice system workers, schools, libraries, and interested community groups. A third booklet, Under Eighteen and Under Arrest: Step-by-Step from Apprehension to Disposition in Family Court, explains the juvenile justice system for juveniles and their families. A slide presentation and Teacher's Guide accompany the booklet. It is used by the Family Court as part of its orientation program, and in schools on the 8th to 10th grade levels.

A fourth publication, League Looks at Lockup (not part of the educational series), is a study of conditions at the Hawaii Youth Correctional Facility (HYCF) with recommendations for reform.

Legislative action in the years following adoption of the position has focused on opposition to the automatic waiver of certain juveniles to adult court and on efforts to improve HYCF. Because of our commitment and expertise, the League was named as a participant in a committee set up by the Legislature to look at the feasibility of a 12-month school at the HYCF, and on a steering committee working on an interagency program for HYCF.

The future offers to be interesting as action is taken in the community on various aspects of the juvenile justice system. The positions within the consensus reached in 1981 provide a sound base for continuing action as long as the League retains juvenile justice as a program item.

Under Eighteen and Under Arrest: A Look at Hawaii's Juvenile Justice System. League of Women Voters of Hawaii Education Fund, November 1980.

Under Eighteen and Under Arrest: Rights of Juveniles. League of Women Voters of Hawaii Education Fund, April 1981.

Under Eighteen and Under Arrest: Step-by-Step from Apprehension to Disposition in Family Court. League of Women Voters of Hawaii Education Fund, 1983.

League Looks at Lock-up. League of Women Voters of Hawaii, May 1981.


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