Juvenile Justice History

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There are six important periods in the development of the United States Juvenile Justice system. The initial process has early ties dating back to the nineteenth century. The earliest attempt to control juvenile activity was during The Puritan Period from 1646 until 1824. The Massachusetts Stubborn Child Law was passed in 1646. The Puritans during the period regarded children as evil and put responsibility on the home to develop and increase youths. If the parents were failing, the young could, then be subject to the force. (Cole, Smith, DeJong).

During the period, children at the age of five were treated either as little adults or property. A seven-year-old baby would be sentenced in criminal courts. At 1648 in Massachusetts the person who cursed his biological parents would be put to death. The second point is The Refuge period from 1824 to 1899. Juvenile crime started to become right alongside American cities.

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In order to see the current position of juvenile offenders in the court system, particularly those tried as adults, it is essential to see the progress from which the juvenile justice originated. Up until the early nineteenth century, juveniles were heard in the same courts as every other offender. There was no difference between criminals, regardless of age. It seemed the only thing society worried about was that the crime was committed and that they took in custody the individual responsible.

In the period since the founding of the juvenile court, juvenile justice policies have developed amid the contradiction between the goals of punishment and rehabilitation of young offenders. The point and use of juvenile justice has undergone significant change in the last century. Juvenile justice systems were originally formed to protect youth from the adult systems of justice and to provide discretion in decision making involving youths so that juvenile justice actors would make decisions that were in the best interest of the children.

From the 1960s through the 1980s there was debate about morals and effectiveness that surrounded the juvenile courts. During this era, there was a rise in attention to and speculation about juvenile delinquency, as well as concern about the court system itself, concerning social issues. There were harsher punishments during this era. Also, there was more of a focus on the due process of juveniles and their legal counsel in court. Racial discrimination, gender disparities, and discrimination towards children with mental and learning disabilities was prevalent. Authorities still recommended jarring punishments for the most serious of crimes. Needless to say, Americans were beginning to fear a generation of youths at this point where crime was rising. The government was finally beginning to see the need for harsher policies and punishments for juvenile crime. Even though the juvenile courts in the United States were becoming more popular, they still had their issues to deal with and overcome.

In the start of the 21st century, the juvenile justice system has reached a great intersection with regard to its work, and the future of the juvenile court is in dispute. But to talk about juvenile justice without thinking about the larger economic, social, and cultural environment would be foolish. We will only skim the surface of new trends, but even a cursory look at the present and immediate future indicates that there are significant issues that must be included when considering the kind of juvenile justice system that the United States needs. The juvenile justice system has its origins in the beginning of this century, when the mistreatment of juveniles turned into the focus of the Progressive Movement. By 1925, almost every government had adopted laws allowing for individual juvenile proceedings that focused on prevention and rehabilitation, rather than revenge and punishment. The underlying assumption of the original juvenile system, and one that continues to prevail, was that juveniles were generally more amenable to rehabilitation that adult criminals.

Due to the harsher punishments placed in the 1980s, in the mid 90’s, juvenile crime began to decline. Schools and political forces adopted their zero tolerance policies for youths and debated that rehab was not as effective as harsher punishments. At this time, more juveniles were beginning to be tried as adults in criminal courts; however, others gave this power to judges or prosecutors according to their discretion, on a case-by-case basis (Shoemaker, 2018).

The system for juveniles goes back hundreds of years, no matter what it was called. Overall, I am not sure that youths who ended up in the juvenile justice system were better or worse compared to earlier periods. Perspective can go either way. The system is flawed because there is no perfect solution. Do I believe that it helps more than it harms? Yes, in the sense that these youths are being housed, fed, and educated. They are given the tools needed to make their future successful. The only question is will they use them to do so. It is ultimately up to them and their perspective or outlook on life whether or not they will the hand life dealt to them and make either lemons or lemonade from their past.

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