University of Miami International and Comparative Law Review


America’s juvenile justice system’s most notable shift came in the 1980s when states deferred the power to prosecute children in adult courts to prosecutors. Prosecutorial discretion over juvenile cases was a rather dormant power, exercised in less than 2% of juvenile cases across the country until the early 2000s. Over the last five years, in response to a growing call to exercise the full power of America’s punitive justice system, states broadened the prosecutor’s discretionary powers. In some cases, prosecutors were given the full discretion to direct file children into adult courts — a decision that could not be reviewed or blocked by a judge. But as America grabbles with a shifted focus on punishing child offenders, Scotland embraces its own revolutionary juvenile justice system. Nearly fifty years ago, Scotland abandoned its juvenile justice system and traded punitive juvenile courts for community-based justice. Since then, Scotland’s juvenile justice program evolved into a nation-wide project that shifted the country’s perspective and approaches toward juvenile crime. This paper dives into the history and details behind America’s prosecutorial discretion laws and Scotland’s community-based justice system. Then, by analyzing implications, I argue America’s punitive justice system should opt for a more rehabilitative system approach to juvenile justice; a system that mirrors Scotland’s effective, and inherently just, nationwide approach.