Juvenile Justice System

Juvenile Justice System has been around since 1899 when Cook County Illinois established the first Juvenile Court. The United States before the establishment of the Juvenile Justice System grouped adults and juveniles together. They were prosecuted under the same criminal justice system. After England reform movement with Juveniles and learning that children and adults are different; morally and cognitively. The United States eventually joined the movement of separating juveniles from adults. This also allowed for a different approach with juveniles. The push for rehabilitation for juveniles was a big starter for the Juvenile Justice System.

Understanding that Juveniles brains are still developing and being able to curb the negative behavior at an early age can be beneficial in preventing juveniles from becoming adult criminals. In 1825, Thomas Eddy and John Griscom reevaluated juveniles and adults being housed in the same institution. The New York House of Refugee was established for this reason. It focused on children who were poor, destitute as well as vagrant youth who were viewed as on the path to delinquency. This new movement opened several other placements for similar youth in Boston and Philadelphia. Each institution held approximately 200 kids, The New York House of Refugee held 1,000 kids. The start of these reform schools became part of the Juvenile Justice System, with different reforms through time reform schools have now become youth correctional institution or development centers.

Along with the idea of reform schools the center idea for Juvenile Justice System was to rehabilitate juveniles. The Juvenile Court focused heavily on rehabilitation as well as protecting juveniles. Parens Patriae was created to ensure that the court system could do just that. Parens Patriae is a legal doctrine that allows for judges to act as the legal guardian of the juvenile and make decisions for the “best interest” of the juvenile. Judges could decide whether a juvenile was on probation or would be placed in an institution, as well as the length of time. Court hearings for the juvenile justice system as informal and did not provide constitutional due process. This allowed for the juvenile justice system to have private hearings for juveniles and gave the judges a great amount of discretion when deciding on sentencing. This amount of power for judges quickly became a problem. Juvenile Justice System began seeing a lack in consistent sentencing between crimes. Judges sentencing decisions were all based off the temperament, mood, or the personal philosophy of the judge.

Supreme Court eventually stepped in creating a reform of the Juvenile Justice System. One very famous case that allowed for the reform of the Juvenile Justice System was In re Gault, 387 U.S 1 (1967). This cause made an impact allowing for juveniles to have the similar due process rights as adults. This case is about a 15-year-old boy names Gerald Gault. On June 8th, 1964, Gault and his friend Ronald Lewis were picked up for making lewd and indecent remarks to a neighbor Mrs. Cook through the phone. Gault was already on probation for a previous crime where he was with another boy who stole a women’s wallet. During the time Gault was picked up by the Sheriff of Gila County, neither Gault parents were home. Gault was brought to Children’s Detention Home.

Gault’s parents were eventually informed that Gault was in custody. When Gault’s mother arrived at the detention home she was told of his charges and was informed that Gault would have a hearing on June 9th, 1964. On June 9th, 1964 the day of the hearing Gault, Gault’s mother and brother as well as the Probation officer Flagg were all present for the hearing. Mrs. Cook the neighbor who was the complainant was not present. During this hearing there was no recording, no one was sworn in, no memorandum was made, or any information prepared for the hearing. During this hearing the judge questioned Gault about the phone calls. Gault stated that he only dialed the number of Mrs. Cooks and Ronald Lewis was the one who made the lewd comments. Probation officer Flagg in the hearing stated that Gault had admitted to making one of the lewd comments.

At the end of the hearing Judge McGhee stated he would “Think about it.” The judge sent Gault back to the detention home without reason. Two day later Gault was sent home again without any reason why. Gault’s mother was given a plain paper from Probation Officer Flagg that informed her that Gault had a hearing for his delinquency on June 15, 1964. On June 15, 1964 Gault had another hearing, this time for his delinquency. At this hearing, Gault, Gault’s parents and brother as well as Probation officer Flagg and Judge McGhee were all present. Again, the complainant Mrs. Cook was not present, and the judge stated she did not need to be present at the hearing. The judge never talked to Mrs. Cook, the Probation officer only talked to Mrs. Cook once on June 9th, 1964. During this hearing Probation officer Flagg changed his statement and said that Gault never admitted to making any lewd comments that he only admitted to dialing Mrs. Cooks phone number.

However, Judge McGhee stated that “there was some admission again of some of the lewd statements. He didn’t admit any of the more serious lewd statements.” The charged that were filed were of Lewd Phone calls, judge McGhee committed Gault as a juvenile delinquent to the State Industrial School until his 21st birthday. Arizona did not have an appeal process for Juveniles cases at the time. Gault petitioned for a writ of habeas corpus on August 3rd, 1964 with the Supreme Court of Arizona. On August 17th, 1964 Judge McGhee was cross examined about his actions. He was asked what code he found Gault delinquency.

Judge McGhee stated the code he found Gault to be in violation of stated “who has violated a law of the state or an ordinance or regulation of a political subdivision thereof.” When Gault was sentenced, he was founded to have violated a law that states “that a person who in presence of hearing of any woman or child, uses vulgar, abusive, or absence language, is guilty of a misdemeanor.” If an adult was charged with lewd phone calls, they would be charged a minimum of $5 to a maximum of $50 or be sentenced to up to two months in jail. The judge also defended his answer by saying he also acted on another code that defines delinquent child and habitual involved in immoral matters.

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