Dr. Mathilda Spencer

Associate Professor, Department of Criminal Justice, California University of Pennsylvania

Editor of Juvenile Justice for the 21st Century

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What inspired you to edit Juvenile Justice in the 21st Century?

Times have changed, and this book is designed to be an addition to any class on juvenile justice regarding the most relevant topics and populations that must be addressed in the 21st century.

The text explores the ways in which societal issues impact youths and the juvenile justice system. What do you feel are some of the most influential and impactful issues influencing and shaping the juvenile justice system today? 

I think one of the biggest challenges facing the juvenile justice system and society is the issue of mental health. I feel that the pandemic has exacerbated a problem that was already difficult to address. The original purpose of the juvenile court was rehabilitation. Faced with mental issues, escalating violence, limited resources, the system—and our society—must become more creative with providing resources to youth before they become delinquents and not after. However, we continue to be more reactive than proactive and therefore we see problems escalate and the system becoming overwhelmed with their search for solutions and often relying on punishment rather than rehabilitation. 

What was the most challenging aspect of organizing this anthology? The most rewarding? 

The most challenging aspect of organizing this anthology was limiting the number of articles that are included. Truthfully, there is a lot of great research being done, but I had to make sure that I used the research that was the most current and relevant to the topic.

The most rewarding is the response from the students. I use this anthology for both doctoral and undergraduate students. A doctoral student who anonymously evaluated the course stated, “I thought there were a lot of books for the class. The Spencer book is really the best book. This book is straight to the point and tells you the facts. Some of the other books you could spend hours on reading a repeat on the same material.” 

How has your textbook enriched your teaching experience and your students’ learning experience?

Every profession has its own “professional lingo”, my text requires that the students define and thus understand these terms. Additionally, the questions are designed for critical thinking. To not just learn about a topic, but to read and discuss how to address the current juvenile justice issues facing professionals and the juvenile justice system. I hope that the students find the topics covered relevant to the issues that they will face when they move into their careers because while my textbook focuses on juvenile justice, issues of race, the LGBTQ community, etc. are those addressed throughout the criminal justice system.

About Juvenile Justice for the 21st Century

Juvenile Justice for the 21st Century provides students with engaging articles and the latest research on emerging topics within the field. This anthology provides readers with valuable information on the current issues facing contemporary youths and the professionals who work with them on a daily basis.

The text is composed of one original piece and seven research articles that cover issues related to race, substance abuse, LGBTQ identity and community, mental health, technology, and reentry success. Individual topics include minority disproportion in the system, the impact of juvenile mental health court on recidivism rates among youth, the overrepresentation of LGBTQ youth within the child welfare to juvenile justice crossover population, and more. The text recognizes the critical role of treatment and rehabilitation in the juvenile justice system and underscores the importance of leveraging current research to guide effective practices and approaches.

Featuring timely, scholarly information, Juvenile Justice for the 21st Century is an ideal supplementary text for courses within criminal justice and sociology, especially those with focus on juvenile justice and delinquency issues.

Learn more about the book, request a digital review copy, view a sneak preview, or purchase the text: https://titles.cognella.com/juvenile-justice-for-the-21st-century-9781793514905


About the Editor

Mathilda Spencer, Ph.D. is an associate professor in the Department of Criminal Justice and Psychology at California State University of Pennsylvania. She holds a Ph.D. in administration and leadership studies from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and a master’s degree in administration of justice from Shippensburg University. She has worked in the human services and criminal justice field for more than 30 years. Prior to her career in academia, Dr. Spencer served as an adult probation/parole officer for Allegheny County Adult Probation and Parole, where she supervised the domestic violence caseload and independently contracted as a pre-sentence investigator. She also served as a juvenile probation officer, working with juvenile sex offenders and supervising the investigations and school-based probation units.