would be used by the attorneys (and guardians or court-appointed special advocates, where
relevant, such as in crossover cases of youth involved in child protection and juvenile justice) in
presenting their sentencing arguments to the judge. The judge would incorporate the trauma
concepts into the relevant sentencing factors and issue a sentence, as explained below.
B. Incorporating Trauma Concepts into Sentencing Factors: Mitigation and Risk
Traditional sentencing factors, such as mitigation or risk to the public, can incorporate
trauma concepts. Understanding child trauma, like understanding normal adolescent
development, requires the acknowledgement that both can be a double-edged sword when it
comes to sentencing. The Supreme Court has been clear that youth are less culpable than
adults,187 which is a mitigating factor in sentencing. The research relied upon by the Court,
however, makes it clear that youth can be impulsive, often poor decision makers when
emotionally upset, and heavily influenced by peers, all of which can make them more of a public
safety risk.188 The same contrast exists with child trauma: many youth in the juvenile justice
system had multiple adverse experiences during childhood, through no fault of their own, which,
under Miller, are mitigating factors in sentencing. But knowing that the resulting trauma may
make a youth more likely to overreact, fight, run away, be self-destructive, and abuse substances
when faced with certain triggers may also make the youth more of a public safety risk to consider
in sentencing. Thus, juvenile court judges may have to balance dealing with children who are in
need of the state’s intervention because they have been traumatized by mistreatment but are
currently a risk to the public.
C. Considering Trauma in the Actual Juvenile Sentence.
Whether placing a convicted youth on probation or committing that youth to a juvenile
institution, there are ways a juvenile court judge can make the sentence trauma-informed. Griffin
et al. (2012b) proposed several principles to be used in trauma-informed juvenile justice
institutions that are applicable at sentencing.189 Judges, in issuing a trauma-informed sentence,
should consider principles of safety, support, self-regulation, and strengths.190 These four S’s can
help shape an appropriate court order.
All child trauma work must start with a focus on safety. Traumatized youth are more
likely to be hyper-aroused and over-interpret signs of danger.191 When they do not feel safe, they
are much more likely to overreact and engage in negative behaviors, such as fight or flight.192 A
youth who has no safe place to live or no safe haven to go to, is more likely to remain hyper-aroused and at risk. Simple things, such as having a safe place to be (e.g., home, school, or job)
and a regular schedule with some structure to a day can help increase a youth’s feeling of
safety.193 Therefore, a judge, in considering the least restrictive placement for a youth, can factor
in safety concerns.
Next, traumatized youth need the long-term support of a responsible adult. There needs
to be a person that youth can reach out to when they are not feeling safe or in control. It is
187 See supra Part II (describing Roper, Graham, and Miller, in which the Supreme Court repeats that juveniles are different and less
culpable than adults).
188 See Steinberg, supra note 87, at 518.
189 Gene Griffin et al., Using a Trauma-Informed Approach in Juvenile Justice Institutions, 5 J. CHILD & ADOLESCENT TRAUMA 271,
190 Id. at 279.
191 See supra note 82.
192 See supra notes 91–97 and accompanying text.
193 See Julian D. Ford & Margaret E. Blaustein, Systematic Self-Regulation: A Framework for Trauma-Informed Services in
Residential Juvenile Justice Programs, 28 J. FAM. VIOLENCE 665, 673 (2013); Michael Ungar & Bruce D. Perry, Violence, Trauma,
and Resilience, in CRUEL BUT NOT UNUSUAL: VIOLENCE IN CANADIAN FAMILIES 11-15 (Ramona Alaggia & Cathy Vine eds., 2d ed.
2012), available at http://cctasp.northwestern.edu/wp-content/uploads/Trauma-Violence-and-Resilience.pdf.