Throughout history juvenile offenders have needed to be protected from the harsh realities that adult offenders face daily. Children as young as 7 years old that were accused of wrongdoing had no rights and were imprisoned with adults. The doctrine of parens patriae provided the basis for the intervention in the lives of wayward youth and defined the legal responsibility towards the protection of children whose security was not guaranteed under the care of their parents.
The use of this policy is critical in ensuring the needs of the children are catered for and disparity among them is eliminated.
Prior to the mid1800s children were considered property and had virtually no rights. When children over the age of reason, generally 7 years old, committed crimes they were treated as miniature adults suffering the same punishments, incarceration and even death. Children were tried as adults and suffered their punishments alongside adults. The juvenile justice system was established in this country sometime around the mid1800s. During this time groups such as The Society for the Reformation of Juvenile Delinquents were mainly concerned with the moral education of children and were advocates for the separation of juvenile and adult offenders. The House of Refuge was opened in 1824 and was the first juvenile house of reform in the United States. This House of Refuge was built in an attempt to reform the juvenile offenders housing neglected and delinquent youths. Soon after other houses of refuge were built as well as reform schools for vagrant and delinquent juveniles and were intended for education and treatment, not for punishment. Hard work, strict regimentation and whippings were very common. Abuses such as physical attacks and sexual abuse came under criticism by the end of the 1800s forcing the state to take over the responsibility of these institutions. The practice of taking these troubled youths under the concept of parens patriae led many people to question if these youths were benefitting from these institutions and their practices. This role of the state now having control of the juvenile facilities led the formation of the first juvenile court in the State of Illinois.
Parens patriae is a concept of law which refers to the act of the state intervening on the parental responsibilities for any child or...