Juvenile Justice History

Juvenile justice is a part of the criminal law put in place only for younger people who are not old enough yet to be held accountable for their crimes. In most cases this apply to youthful offenders usually under the age 18 who are accused of committing a delinquent or criminal activities. So, their case will typically go through the juvenile justice system.

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The juvenile justice system is the initial system used in the United States to handle youths who are convicted for engaging in criminal acts. The juvenile justice system and adult criminal law system are comparable in several ways. For instance, both of these system processes include arrest, detainment, hearings, depositions, and reentry. However, the difference is the juvenile justice system operates with the assumption that the younger people are essentially different from the adults in levels of rehabilitation and responsibility. Throughout, history the American justice system has changed numerous times to properly serve youthful offenders. According, to Hess & Wright (2012), Juvenile justice in the United States is generally recognized as having progressed through five distinct stages.

During the Puritan Period (1646-1824), laws from England were brought over and it was believed that children sins were inherent. So, juveniles would be strictly punished when it was necessary and when children misbehave during this period their families were in control of their punishments. However, when the parents failed to punish their children community punishments and control was put forward by church and other social institutions to handle juvenile offenders. Trials and punishment were based on age, and anyone older than 7 was subject to the courts (Hess & Wright, 2012, p. 34). Children 7 years of age and younger would not be held responsible for criminal acts, but once a child reached the age 8 it was believed that they were capable of telling the difference between good and evil therefore, they could be found guilty of their crimes. Rebelliousness and disobedience were two offenses that juvenile offenders age 7 and older could receive punishments for during this period.

The Refuge Period (1824-1899), during this period poverty was a crime, so children were removed from those environments to eliminate it and improve juveniles’ behaviors. That being said, separate institutions like reform schools, houses of refuge, and foster homes were created for youths. However, delinquents, neglected, and foster children were still housed together in these institutions for juveniles. It was believed by child savers that the unhealthy environment a child was in was the reason they were bad, so children received treatment by being placed in houses of refuge or reform schools. Reformers felt that when a child was put in the justice system the main focus should be on what and how a child became what they are and how society could help them, instead of focusing solely on their punishments. Other belief was youth should be treated/rehabilitated not punished and they should not be held responsible as an adult. Numerous of important events transpired during this period that transformed juvenile justice. In 1870, the first use of separate trials for juveniles was established and in 1880 the first probation system applicable to juveniles initiated according to (Hess & Wright, 2012).

The third stage was the Juvenile Court Period (1899-1960) it came about during the Progressive Era or Age of Reform and it was believed by reformers that children were a product of their environments so, it was the parents’ duty to raise obedient and hardworking children. The first juvenile court was established in 1899 and this was how children were handled primarily handled. The 1899 Juvenile Court Act created public policy based on medical model which focused on individual diagnosis and treatment. This act also included separation of children from adults in institutions and use of probation increased for better rehabilitation. Criminal cases involving Youth age 16 and under were removed from criminal jurisdiction and not held accountable for their offenses. Chicago Boy’s Court and Youth Counsel Bureau was the start of diversion. four religion-based community service agencies were used to treat the youth and if supervision successful and the courts were satisfied no record made of the incident.

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