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The History And Evolution Of The Juvenile Justice System

1379 words - 6 pages

The history of the juvenile justice system is a mixture of the criminal justice system, family court, child protective services, social services, orphanages, adoption and humanitarian growth. (Schmalleger, 2007) Where a child fit into the system would depend on the crime, family pedigree, financial standing, color and social status. Children of color would be treated harsher than whites, Indian children were treated worse than African American Children, and status was determined by the color of your skin. Children of color would be given a death sentence before a white child and those with financial means could buy a pardon or parole. (Hopkins, 2008)

From America’s beginning we modeled our criminal codes and punishments after England’s. England did not make allowances for the age or maturity of an offender, punishments ranged from flogging, mutilation, branding, public humiliation (stockades), work houses, exile and other forms of torture and every person was subject to them no matter the age; we carried this tradition with us to the colonies. (Roberson, 2007) In the nineteenth century we began what I feel is more of a social services program that was in fact an attack on the poor but the juvenile system calls the child-saving movement. This movement focused on the dangerousness and immorality that was believed to go hand in hand with being underprivileged. The “House of Refuge” that were privately or community funded opened in New York in 1825; (Larry J. Siegel, 2008) it was believed to be a family environment but was in fact a work house and functioned much like the later industrial prisons (1890-1935) that fell out of favor because of the economic impact on the U.S. economy. (Schmalleger, 2007)pg. 490) Americans were much like the English and we still are today believing that hard work means a prosperous and law abiding lifestyle. In these work houses children were taught trades and forced to work and disciplined severely for any misdeed. The states answer to these children was reform school. Reform schools were mirror images of work houses but were funded by state funding and did include some education along with learning a trade of some sort. No distinction was made between criminal behavior and what we call status offenses today other than serious crimes would mean the possibility of death, this practice continued into the twenty first century, although the procedures did change along the way.
An interesting chapter in our juvenile justice and social services history is child slavery (1854-1929); poor children from the city were gathered up and taken by the Children’s Aid Society and the New York Founding Hospital out west to be given to rural families. (National Orphan Train Complex) History attempts to clean this system up by referring to it as the first adoption system but in reality it was a way to get the children off the streets and out of the safe houses when parents could not pay for the up keep of their children. ...

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