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Book Review   |    
Forensic Evaluation of Juveniles
Richard Barnum, M.D.
Psychiatric Services 1999; doi:
View Author and Article Information

by Thomas Grisso, Ph.D.; Sarasota, Florida, Professional Resource Press, 1998, 286 pages, $34.95

Tom Grisso began his career in forensic psychology more than 15 years ago working with juveniles (1). He has now returned to this area with a manual for clinical and forensic practice entitled Forensic Evaluation of Juveniles.

The book begins with a brief but thoughtful review of the history of the juvenile court. It follows with detailed chapters on juveniles' waiver of Miranda rights, competence to stand trial, risk assessment, rehabilitation evaluations, and waiver questions and concludes with a discussion of professional roles and ethics. Each of the chapters offers a clear and detailed exposition of the relevant legal issues and of the clinical data needed to address them.

Perhaps most important, each chapter analyzes the specific steps in clinical reasoning that the consultant needs to take in moving from data to opinion to respond to the specific consultation problem. Following these analyses enables the clinician to understand with great clarity what clinical and legal issues need to be addressed and how to address them in stepwise fashion to inform the legal decision maker.

The most common issue in clinical evaluation of juvenile defendants concerns amenability to rehabilitation (2). Grisso notes that this sort of evaluation often includes two or three different issues—risk assessment, specific treatment recommendations, and opinion about prognosis for rehabilitation in the juvenile system—and he offers a separate chapter on each issue.

The chapter on treatment recommendations is typical in its attention to practical logic. Briefly summarized (and this summary does not do justice to the richness of the discussion), this chapter asks the consultant to conduct a detailed clinical assessment of the youth; to take care to identify the youth's specific behaviors or characteristics that are problematic from the point of view of juvenile justice; to recommend specific interventions that might address those goals, with particular attention to whether those interventions are realistically available to the youth in question; and to provide an explicit opinion on the question of how successful these interventions can be expected to be in the individual case.

My only quibble with this analysis is that it does not pay enough attention to assessing the potential in the individual case that a youth's offensive behavior could be expected to desist spontaneously without intervention. This objection aside, if every delinquency evaluation followed the recommendations in this chapter, the overall standard of practice would be dramatically increased.

Forensic Evaluation of Juveniles is a pleasure to read. Clinicians who follow its advice will provide high-quality consultation, and the book should set standards that will significantly improve consultative practice with the courts and youth corrections agencies. Moreover, contained within the practical advice in this guide is a subtle and wise appreciation of obscure and difficult interactions between juvenile justice and mental health. The careful reader will take from this book a deeper understanding of the complex challenges our juvenile justice system faces in its efforts to rehabilitate juvenile delinquents, and of how to make effective contributions to improving those efforts.

Dr. Barnum is director of the Boston Juvenile Court Clinic and director of juvenile forensic services for the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health.

Grisso T: Juveniles' capacities to waive Miranda rights: an empirical analysis. California Law Review 68:1134-1166,  1980
 
Mulvey E: Judging amenability to treatment in juvenile offenders, in Children, Mental Health, and the Law. Edited by Reppucci ND, Weithorn LH, Mulvey EP, et al. Beverly Hills, Calif, Sage, 1984
 
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References

Grisso T: Juveniles' capacities to waive Miranda rights: an empirical analysis. California Law Review 68:1134-1166,  1980
 
Mulvey E: Judging amenability to treatment in juvenile offenders, in Children, Mental Health, and the Law. Edited by Reppucci ND, Weithorn LH, Mulvey EP, et al. Beverly Hills, Calif, Sage, 1984
 
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