The pedagogy of juvenile justice: a child-friendly justice

La pedagogía de la justicia de menores: sobre una justicia adaptada a los menores

María José Bernuz Beneitez, Esther Fernández Molina


This article considers the educational opportunities offered by juvenile justice interventions when a young person has committed a criminal offence. Given that the response occurs in an environment that is not child-friendly, this text identifies the elements that legitimise this justice system and make children perceive it as a fair and appropriate response to their criminal behaviour. The need for punishment which is educational and responsibility-oriented is noted, as is the need for appropriately trained professionals to promote young people’s participation in the procedure and improve their
legal competence, based on the fact that passing through the criminal procedure can be an experience of legal socialisation for young people and in order for the pedagogical action of justice to be effective. Only in this way will juvenile offenders have a positive perception of the judicial experience, which offers an opportunity to improve their attitudes towards the law and the system. In short, this article comprises a reflection on the importance of the pedagogical action that juvenile justice deploys throughout the whole procedure and how its success can legitimise the intervention by a specialized criminal system and encourage young people to understand and accept its educational sense.

This is the English version of an article originally printed in Spanish in issue 273 of the revista española de pedagogía. For this reason, the abbreviation EV has been added to the page numbers. Please, cite this article as follows: Bernuz Beneitez, M. J., & Fernández Molina, E. (2019). La pedagogía de la justicia de menores: sobre una justicia adaptada a los menores | The pedagogy of juvenile justice: a child-friendly justice. Revista Española de Pedagogía, 77 (273), 229-244. doi:

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María José Bernuz Beneitez has a doctorate in law. She is an Associate Professor in Philosophy of Law and a Researcher in the Legal Sociology Laboratory at the Universidad de Zaragoza. Her research into juvenile justice started with her doctoral thesis and has continued with national and European projects on the topic (Youprev), as well as cooperation with criminology research groups in Albacete, Brussels (VUB), and Porto. Along with this line of research, she has also worked on security, gender-based violence, and animal rights policies.

Esther Fernández Molina is an Associate Professor at the Universidad de Castilla-La Mancha. She is the Director of the Criminology Research Centre and is head of the Consolidated Research Group in Criminology and Juvenile Delinquency of the Universidad de Castilla-La Mancha. Her main lines of research are juvenile justice, crime trends in delinquency, and public perceptions of crime (fear of crime, attitudes to juvenile punishment, and attitudes towards penal institutions).