The Development Of The Juvenile Justice System Criminology Essay

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This paper is about the history and development of the Juvenile Justice System. Since the Juvenile Justice System was established in 1868, there are been a lot of changes made to rehabilitate juveniles instead of imprisoning and punishing them. The system acts as a shield for juveniles who perform criminal acts and protects them from being treated as an adult.

The History and Development of the Juvenile Justice System

The Juvenile Justice System is a system set up to protect and help juvenile offenders, also known as delinquents. It acts as a shield for juveniles who perform adult criminal acts or status offenses.

The Juvenile Justice System was established in 1868 in Chicago to protect children from the influences of adult prisoners, deviate youthful offenders from the criminal courts and to encourage rehabilitation based on the juvenile's needs. [1] Before the Juvenile Justice System was established, any person under the age of seventeen who committed a crime was placed in the same system as adults. It was later determined that with proper structure and disciplinary guidelines in the lives of youth's they could be rehabilitated and become productive members of society.

The qualifications that designate a minor as "juvenile" under the law vary from state to state. In most states, anyone that is under the age of seventeen is considered a juvenile and any youth under the age of seven is not held accountable for their actions, which is called the defense of infancy.

The focus of the juvenile justice system is to rehabilitate juveniles, rather than imprisoning and punishing them. Research shows that incarceration does not rehabilitate juvenile offenders, in fact, more and more youth who end up in juvenile halls or state prisons are actually non-violent offenders.

In 1897, Illinois passed the Juvenile Court Act, which established the nation's first juvenile court. Missouri became the eighth state to create a juvenile court by establishing the St. Louis city Juvenile Court on March 23, 1903. [2] The British doctrine of parens patriae (the state as parent) was the rationale for the right of the state to intervene in the lives of children in a manner different from the way it intervenes in the lives of adults. The doctrine was interpreted to mean that, because children were not of full legal capacity, the state had the inherent power and responsibility to provide protection for children whose natural parents were not providing appropriate case or supervision.

Juvenile residential facilities work the same as the rest of the Juvenile Justice system, focusing more on rewarding good behavior instead of punishing the juvenile. Juveniles that are in these facilities are given the opportunity and usually ordered by the court to attend family, group and individual counseling, and to attend school and other programs that are offered. These facilities also offer the juveniles a chance to learn new skills such as art, gardening, and auto repair.

Unlike normal proceedings, which are almost always open to the public, juvenile courts are usually closed to the public. Juvenile records are often sealed and made so they cannot be seen, and are sometimes even cleared when the juvenile reaches a certain age which is usually at the age of either eighteen or twenty-one.

In the early 1800's reformers became concerned about the overcrowded conditions in the jail and corruptions youth experienced when confined with adult felons. The first House of Refuge opened in New York in 1825, as a facility exclusively for children. By the 1840's, 3 more were built around the country. [3] 

The Houses of Refuge were not just for children who had committed crimes. They were also homes for poor children, orphans, or any child thought to be incorrigible or wayward. In response to overcrowding, deplorable conditions, and reports of brutality in the House of Refuge, training schools were developed in the mid-nineteenth century. Training schools placed a larger emphasis on schooling and vocational training. They are still the models of juvenile incarceration today.

Until the late 19th century, children and adults were tried in criminal courts. The sixteenth century educational reform movement in England that perceived children to be different than miniature adults, with less than fully developed moral and cognitive capacities, fueled the movement for juvenile justice reform.

There are now significant differences in the juvenile and criminal court systems. The focus of the juvenile court was on the offender, not on the offense.

In the 1950's and 1960's public concern grew about the effectiveness of the juvenile justice system, not because of the rehabilitative philosophy, but because of its perceived lack of effectiveness and the number of juveniles who were detained indefinitely. In the 1960's, the Supreme Court made a series of decisions that formalized the juvenile courts and made them more like criminal courts. Formal hearings were required in situations where juveniles were waived to adult courts, juveniles facing confinement were required to be given the right to receive notice of charges held against them and the right to have an attorney represent them. "Proof beyond a reasonable doubt" had to be established, instead of just "a preponderance of evidence" for an adjudication.

In the 1990's this tough on crime trend accelerated. Transfer provisions made it easier to transfer juvenile offenders to the criminal justice system. In the court process and in detention, a greater emphasis moved from rehabilitation to punishment.

In 1968 congress passed the Juvenile Delinquency Prevention and Control Act. The act was designed to encourage states to develop plans and programs that would work on a community level to discourage juvenile delinquency. [4] 

By 1974 the United States had developed a strong momentum toward preventing juvenile delinquency, deinstitutionalizing youth already in the system and keeping juvenile offenders separate form adult offenders. Part of the rationale behind the separation of juvenile and adult offenders was evidence that delinquent youth learned worse criminal behavior from older inmates.

A steep rise in juvenile crime occurred between the late 1980's and mid 1990's. The 1974 Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act was amended to include provisions that would allow states to try juveniles as adults for some violent crimes and weapons violations. The anti-crime sentiment of the period caused changes to be implemented to the juvenile justice system that made it increasingly similar to the adult criminal justice system.

In 1825, the Society for the Prevention of Juvenile Delinquency founded the New York House of Refuge, the fist institution designed to accommodate juvenile delinquents. [5] Progressive Era reformers wanted to attack what they believed were the roots of juvenile delinquency - a lack of moral education and standards - and advocated that juvenile institutions include a significant educational and rehabilitative component. For their efforts, the earliest juvenile justice reformers were known as "child savers."

The child savers' advocacy resulted in the establishment of the first juvenile court in Cook County, Illinois, in 1899. As opposed to the adversarial adult criminal systems where the state's role was to prosecute the offender, the juvenile court had a more benevolent mission: it was designed to be flexible, informal and to tailor to a juvenile's individual needs, with the ultimate goal of rehabilitation.

During the 1960's, civil libertarians began to raise concerns about the Progressive Era model of juvenile justice. They argued that despite rhetoric to the contrary, juveniles within the system were not actually being rehabilitated, but rather warehouse din institutions not much different from an adult prison. In a series of reeling's during the 1960's and 1970's, the United States Supreme Court agreed, "There is evidence, in fact, that there may be grounds for concern that the child receives the worst of both worlds: that he gets neither the protections accorded to adults nor the solicitors care and regenerative treatment postulated for children." In decisions such as Kent, In re Gault and In re Winship, the Supreme Court ruled that juveniles must be afforded due process protections including: formal hearings when facing waiver to criminal court, protection against self-incrimination; the rights to notice of charges, counsel, and cross-examination of witnesses; and adherence to the "proof beyond a reasonable doubt" judicial standard.

One of the first actions to be taken during the juvenile court process is determining whether a case should be processed in the criminal justice system rather than in juvenile court. In most states, cases referred to juvenile court that meet certain criteria may be transferred to criminal court upon the authorization of the juvenile court judge.

Juvenile courts were conceived at the term of the century to end the long-standing practice of trying (and imprisoning) children side by side with adult criminals. There are two reasons for this. There was the commonsense legal theory that children caught not bear the same statutory responsibility as grown-ups because of their immaturity (psychological, emotional and developmental). And there was growing public sentiment that u\punishing children in the same way as adult criminals was immoral, an opinion fueled by media coverage of harsh and inhumane treatment of children in states penitentiaries and occasionally on death row. [6] 

The original juvenile courts were informal civil tribunals. The accused were no longer called criminals or defendants facing trail and sentence - they were "delinquents" facing "adjudication" and "disposition", giving rise to an entire system of euphemism that persists to this day.

In the new system, children were not entitled to legal representation, nor were prosecutors on hand to represent the interests of the state and public safety. Usually, a juvenile court judge would confer with the equivalent of a social worker, then decide how best to deal with the juvenile.

Roughly half of all youth arrests are made on account of theft, simple assault, drug abuse, disorderly conduct and curfew violations. Statistics show theft as the greatest cause of youth arrests.

Through reauthorization amendments, additional programs have been added to the original Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act. The following list highlights a few of these additions:

1977 - Programs were developed to assist learning disabled children that entered the juvenile justice system.

1984 - A new missing and exploited children program was added.

1984 - Strong support was given to programs that strengthened families.

1988 - Studies on prison conditions within the Indian Justice System.

1990 - The OJJDP began funding child abuse training programs to instruct judicial personnel and prosecutors.

1992 - A juvenile boot camp program was designed to introduce delinquent youth to a lifestyle of structure and discipline.

1992 - A community prevention grants program gave start-up money to communities for local juvenile crime prevention plans.

Since the late 1990's, gun control laws have been debated, school safety programs have been enacted, juvenile offenders have been sent to adult prison, and anti-drug use crusades have been pushed.

The American Juvenile Justice System was created to keep citizens safe and rehabilitate youth who have committed offenses. Since the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act was enacted in 1974, the system has undergone numerous changes. I feel there will always be a reason to continue with the Juvenile Justice. There are a lot more kids today that are committing crimes. The youth in today's society have to do with more peer pressure than in days past. They think they have to along with the crowd, and the crowd will a lot of times take them down the wrong road. I think the Juvenile Justice has improved since the first case back in 1868 and will continue to improve as time goes on to help youth stay in the right track.