Unlike Miami's austere courthouses, such as the Flagler Street tower or the fortresslike behemoth on NW Twelfth Street, the sprawling Juvenile Justice Center on NW 27th Avenue has all the dignity of an elementary school. And form speaks to function. In the adult courts, both civil and criminal, grownups suffer the consequences of their actions under the harsh glare of reason. But in the juvenile system, emotion threatens to swamp every minute of every day. In delinquency court, where kids are tried for criminal acts, red-faced parents drag their youngsters before judges who try to determine whether transgressions are the result of youthful ignorance or the first buds of a blossoming life of crime. Across the courtyard in the building's south wing is dependency court, where the state intervenes in the messy emotional life of our most dysfunctional families. It is here that prosecutors argue to terminate a parent's right to raise a child, usually because of alleged abuse or drug use. These cases can last for years, with parents reappearing frequently to defend their actions. The hearings can become a quagmire of competing interests. There are usually three sets of lawyers: the parents', the child's, and the state's. The family portraits that emerge often are more Hieronymus Bosch than... More >>>