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Thomas Grisso, Double Jeopardy: Adolescent Offenders with Mental Disorders.

Thomas Grisso, Double Jeopardy: Adolescent Offenders with Mental Disorders. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2004. $29.00 hardcover.

We continue to be awed and dismayed by the perpetration of violent crimes by adolescents. The wide-spread prevalence of youth gangs and their sub-cultures of violence together with the availability of guns and other weapons have contributed to a predictable societal reaction emphasizing the value of public safety over the important and sometimes competing value of rehabilitation. As the author points out there is a high incidence of mental disorders among youthful offenders. Consequently, how the juvenile justice system and the mental health system intersect and interact are major concerns not only for these two human services systems, but for American society also. In this work Thomas Grisso addresses the complex issue of how the juvenile justice system should appropriately meet its obligation as caretakers of adolescent offenders with mental disabilities.

Organizing the book around sociolegal contexts for adolescent offenders with mental disorders, he articulates three principal concerns: (1) custodial treatment obligations, (2) due process in adjudication proceedings, and (3) public safety. Significantly, Grisso indicates that DSM diagnosis must play a primary role in any effort to circumscribe the population of youths with which we are concerned", but he quickly adds that "this does not mean that we should limit out notion of 'disorder' to DSM diagnoses and our notion of treatment only to modify them.

Two reasons are presented for resisting the knee-jerk reaction to prescribe treatment for all adolescent offenders with mental disorders. First, it would require the expenditure of huge resources, both professional and financial, in identifying each youth's mental disorder and then providing treatment for it. Second, beneficent interventions unrestrained can carry with them potential dangers to liberty and self-determination.

The author considers the current state of the identification of mental disorders in adolescents. He gives considerable attention to issues regarding the diagnosis of conduct disorder. In critiquing the DSM's classification system regarding mental disorders of adolescents, Grisso emphasizes the value of the conceptual approach of developmental psychopathologists. He points out that developmental psychopathology is not merely the study of psychopathology in childhood and adolescence--it is the study of how psychopathology emerges and changes in a developmental context, structured and guided by what is known about normal biological, cognitive, emotional, and social development during childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. This invokes a shift from viewing adolescent psychological disturbance as either the further development of childhood disturbance or the immature expression of adult psychopathology.

In reviewing methods of assessment, Grisso discusses DSM diagnostic interviews, personality and behavioral/emotional problems inventories, symptom interviews, and measures of functional impairment. He considers their applicability in the juvenile justice context relative to justice processing, feasibility, relevance, and resilience. The author addresses questions about youths that have been identified as having mental disorders and functional impairments. Important topics such as modes of intervention that include psychopharmacological agents, psychotherapies, and psychosocial interventions are covered as well as treatments of value. He observes that the evidence-based treatment requirement should be redefined in order to try out efficacious treatments in everyday clinical practice to see if they work in the real world.

Grisso emphasizes that diagnosis does not define the obligation, that not all treatment is worthwhile, that clinical care is sometimes harmful, and that justice systems are not ideal settings for clinical care. Topics covered in these chapters include interventions for crisis conditions, screening processes, outcomes of screening, diversion, stabilization treatment, and maintenance treatment. Other critical issues deal with competence to waive Miranda rights, capacities to participate meaningfully in their trials and criminal responsibility ("questions of not guilty by reason of insanity").

The book ends by focusing on public safety obligation. Major issues include mental disorders and long range risks of harm (including the judicial transfer of young offenders to criminal court for trial and nonjudicial transfer (statutory exclusion, prosecutor discretion) and unanswered questions for policy and research. As one of his policy perspectives, the author challenges the continued rigid application of determinate sentences. He proposes that community release should sometimes occur when risk has been sufficiently lowered to begin the system's primary intervention--occurring after the youth's release--to reduce middle- and long-range risk.

In this volume Thomas Grisso, steering away from offering a comprehensive set of standards or strategies, masterfully integrates a prodigious array of material from a virtual encyclopedic command of the substantive issues, knowledge, and facts relating to three sociolegal contexts. His measured writing flows precisely. One caution, it is hard to take in all of his pertinent points without rereading or going back in the text. Here he helps the reader by making reference to preceding discussion as appropriate. For professionals, policy makers, and students in the areas of juvenile justice and mental health, this book should be required reading. Also, it merits high marks as a valuable reference work.

James W. Callicutt

The University of Texas at Arlington
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Author:Callicutt, James W.
Publication:Journal of Sociology & Social Welfare
Article Type:Book review
Date:Mar 1, 2006
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