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Psychological Evaluation of Juvenile Offenders

Many juvenile offenders exhibit individual psychological problems, and others have been raised in problematic or dysfunctional families.  Psychological evaluation of juvenile offenders is an essential part of the family court system, because the thrust of the juvenile justice system is to provide rehabilitation. A juvenile offender may need psychological treatment, educational assistance, or treatment for a substance abuse problem. Provision of these needed rehabilitation services will reduce the possibility of recidivism. The juvenile justice system will often provide the necessary psychological treatment, or mandate other agencies or individuals (including the juvenile and his/her parents) to provide assistance to the juvenile.

Psychological evaluation of juvenile offenders can provide valuable information to the court, which can be used in developing a rehabilitation plan for the juvenile.  This treatment plan can then be incorporated into sentencing or probation requirements. These evaluations may be ordered by the court at the request of either the prosecution or the defense, or the defense may simply choose to have an evaluation completed and submitted to the court for consideration in sentencing. 

The evaluation process includes a review of all charges pending against the juvenile, plus a review of all past charges on the record. It can be helpful to see academic school records, including attendance records, and any child study team evaluations or classifications are extremely important. The juvenile is seen for a clinical interview to assess his/her psychological status, and to identify any psychological disorders. If indicated in the interview, personality tests or other psychological assessment instruments used to identify depression, psychopathy, or other psychological disorders may be administered. Depending on the circumstances of the case, family members may also be interviewed.

A comprehensive report summarizes the clinical findings of the evaluation. Additionally, the report will present conclusions, based on reasonable psychological certainty, regarding any connection between the identified psychological problems and the juvenile's criminal activity. The psychologist will make specific recommendations for treatment of the juvenile, and will present a prognosis regarding the likelihood of repeat offenses in the future, with and without treatment.

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