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History Of The Juvenile Justice System

3102 words - 12 pages

This paper will discuss the history of the juvenile justice system and how it has come to be what it is today. When a juvenile offender commits a crime and is sentenced to jail or reform school, the offender goes to a separate jail or reforming place than an adult. It hasn’t always been this way. Until the early 1800’s juveniles were tried just like everyone else. Today, that is not the case. This paper will explain the reforms that have taken place within the criminal justice system that developed the juvenile justice system.
Before the Progressive Era, children who were over the age of seven were put in jail with adults. In the early part of the 1800’s reformers started to become concerned with the overcrowded environment in the jails and prisons, and the corruption young kids were experiencing when locked up with adult prisoners. The Progressives in the late nineteenth century started to push for universal reform in the criminal justice system (Myers, 2008). The Progressives looked to move away from the penalizing aspect and more towards a rehabilitative system, with regard to the rectification of delinquent children and adolescents. A specific group of Progressives, called the "child savers," focused the majority of their attention on finding and curing the causes of juvenile delinquent behavior. The child savers group viewed the juvenile offenders as adolescents in need of care and direction, not punishment (Myers, 2008). In In re Gault (1967), Justice Fortas summed up the views of the child savers: “The early reformers were horrified by adult procedures and penalties, and by the fact that children could be given long prison sentences and thrown in jails with toughened criminals. They were overwhelmingly convinced that society's duty to the child could not be restricted by the concept of justice alone. They believed that society's role was not to determine whether the child was guilty or innocent, but what is he/she, how has he/she become what he/she is, and what had best be done in his/her interest and in the interest of the state to save him/her from a downward career. The child-essentially good, as they saw it was made to feel that he is the object of the state's care and solicitude, not that he was under arrest or on trial” (In re Gault, 1967).
The rising viewpoint of the child savers was that of parens patriae which said that the state had an assenting duty to get involved and care for the less fortunate kids. In 1899, the first court devoted to hearing cases with juvenile delinquents was developed by the Illinois Legislature. The procedures in the juvenile court were much different from those of the criminal courts. The child would be accused of a crime they committed, but they were offered help, treatment, and direction (Myers, 2008). Juvenile hearings were held in private and the juvenile’s records were kept sealed to avoid the disgrace of a criminal conviction. Since the juvenile courts rejected punishment, they were allowed to...

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