History of the Juvenile Justice System

The 100 year history of the juvenile justice system in the United States has seen fundamental changes in certain aspects of process and philosophy. Many adults, in today’s society, would disagree with how juveniles are processed in the adult justice system. In the 18th century, any juvenile below the age of 17 years old were housed with adults in the criminal system. Most juveniles in the adult system in the 18th century were in prison or sentenced to death. Children as young as 6 years old were either hung or burned at the stake for their crimes.

Thomas Graunger was the 1st juvenile known to be executed in America in 1642 in Plymouth Colony, MA (Hale 1997). Many juveniles faced grave dangers of physical abuse, sexual abuse, and even suicide in adult’s facilities than juvenile facilities. Early jails housed men, women, juveniles, mentally unhealthy, and mentally healthy criminals. Overcrowded conditions in the jails caused corruption that juveniles were faced with while confined with adult felons. There was reported abuse of beatings and deplorable conditions. Many juveniles had received very harsh treatment in the adult system.

Social views began to change, many started to see juvenile offenders as youths who had simply lost their way, rather than hardened criminals. Many believed that with proper instruction, and disciplinary guidelines instituted, a youth could be rehabilitated and again become a productive member of society. The 1st court was established under British legal doctrine of ‘Parens Patrial’ which means “State as Parent”. Mary Bartelme (1865-1954) was the 1st woman to be appointed as a public guardian for juveniles in Cook County Illinois, and was the 1st woman judge who had held both positions.

Mary, Julia Lathrop, Lucy Flowers, and the State Board of Charities lobbied for and established juvenile courts. In 1899, the 1st United States juvenile court was established in Cook County Illinois as a byproduct of the Progressive Era. Within 25 years, most states had also set up juvenile court systems. Most cases were treated as civil (non-criminal). By 1925, 48 states had established juvenile court systems. The juvenile court system was established to guide juveniles toward life as responsible law abiding adults. The juvenile justice system differs in many ways from the adult justice system.

They are less concerned with legal issues of guilt or innocence and focus more on the child’s best interest. The courts emphasize more on treatment for the offender than punishment. They ensure privacy from public scrutiny through the use of sealed records and there are laws against publishing the names of juvenile offenders. There are many differences with the use of techniques of social science in dispositional decision making rather than sentences determined by a perceived need for punishment. The system does not order long term confinement like the adult system with most juveniles being released on their 21st birthday.

They allow broad discretionary alternatives at all points in the process. The systems use separate facilities to house juveniles away from adult felons. Mary Bartelme established in 1914 a “Mary Club” in her home as a place for girls to be supervised before placement in to the foster care. She had established to more to segregate the white from the blacks. Many social reformers had also sought to create special facilities to have a place to house these young offenders, especially in large cities. The Society of the Prevention of Juvenile Delinquency had established “New York House of Refuge” in New York City in 1825.

Preston School of Industry (also known as Preston Castle) had officially opened in July 1, 1894. 30 years after New York House of Refuge opened, Chicago Reform School opened. They had established these places to find a way to separate the juveniles from the adults and try to help the young offenders change their way of life. Between the years 1855 and 1871, convicted boys were sent to the Chicago Reform School. Most boys who came to this reform school were convicted of truancy, incorrigibility, and sexual delinquency.

The Great Fire of 1871 had destroyed the building and most of the town, the boys were then sent to the State Reform School. In 1870, The Chicago Reform School had created a book of rules and regulations for the officers and inmates of this facility. Some of these rules and regulations include; that officers that were in charge of the boys are excepted to take special notice of their behavior and conversation, to see that everything is appropriate and gentlemanly, and also to take special pains in regard to appearance and cleanly condition of the boys, and special care is to be taken of their behavior in the dining hall and lines.

No inmate shall be detained from school session unless permission is so given by the superintendent. Every inmate of the school will be required to employ a portion of each day in some department of labor, and shall not be excused unless ordered by the superintendent. Visitors may visit the institution on any day of the week, except Sunday, Monday, and Saturday, between the hours of 2 and 6 pm. No person shall be permitted to visit the school unless permission is first obtained by the superintendent. Special care should be taken in reference to safety from fires, in all the departments.

All lights shall be extinguished before 11 pm, except in dormitories and in case of sickness. No inmates shall be allowed to carry knives, sharp edged tools, or matches, except when they require them at work, and then only for the length of time necessary to accomplish the work they have to do. All misdemeanors on the part of the boys are to be reported in books provided for that purpose, and should be made very plain and strictly correct without diminishing or exaggerating. The name of the offender always being in the prominent at the margin.

The report to be dated and the initials of the officer signed thereto. Reporting cases for discipline, each officer should only report what he knows for himself, and any information given to him from time to time. State in the report the source from whence the information came. Every male officer connected with institution will be required to meet every night after prayers and there to be notified as to whether everything is right or not, also to receive instructions for the next day, if any, and make out and deposit all reports for the past day in a drawer provided for that purpose.

All persons employed in the service of the school should feel it incumbent upon themselves to see that all the rules and regulations of the school are strictly observed and must report promptly any failure therein to the superintendent. A 1935 Illinois Supreme Court decision restricted its power to those cases that the state’s attorney chose not to prosecute in adult court. A citizens committee report in 1963, criticized the juvenile court for having limited jurisdiction, overworked judges, and overburdened and under qualified staff, consisting predominantly of patronage appointees.

The state legislature overhauled the Illinois Juvenile Court Act in 1965, giving significant legal protection to minors, including the right to a public defender. The 1967 United States Supreme Court Gault decision further extended juveniles rights to due process. In the late 1960s to early1970s, there was a trend extending the due process rights of adult criminal trials to juvenile trials had slowed. Lawsuits had attacked the conditions and policies of juvenile institutions, alleging cruel and unusual punishment.

In 1974, Congress passed the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention and Control Act, which was used to help the juveniles in the system. In that same year, The Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention and Control Act created the Federal Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, which had grants and encouraged community based program alternatives. In the 1980s, the pendulum began swinging back towards law and order. Congress had passed numerous acts to “get tough on crime”. The courts allowed juveniles to be tried in adult courts for criminal felonies.

Law enforcement had introduced community based facilities, like group homes and half way houses. In the late 1980s, the creation of prevention methods and programs, like television commercials (not using drugs), D. A. R. E. , after school programs, and counseling. In the 1990s, the courts began to crack down on juvenile crime. There were 5 areas of change that emerged as states passed laws to crack down on young offenders. Transfer provisions made it easier to transfer juveniles from the juvenile system. Sentencing authority where there were laws that gave criminal and juvenile courts expanding sentencing options.

Confidentiality that is making records and proceedings more open to others. Victims’ Rights has an increased role of victims in juvenile crime. Correctional programming, in which, adult and juvenile correctional administrations have developed new programs. There has been a significant change in terms of treating more juvenile offenders as criminals for more criminal felonies. In 1997, between 1,500 and 2,000 cases were heard every day, representing 25,000 active delinquency and 50,000 active abuse and neglect cases. Arthur J.

Audy Home was the largest juvenile jail in the world, housing 750 youths a day. Only 6% of delinquency cases involved serious violent offenders. 2/3 of court caseloads consisted of abuse and neglect cases. Reformers had linked them to an increase in rates of poverty, decline in high paying employment, drastic cutbacks in welfare, and social services for families and children since the 1980s. About 1. 6 million juveniles (under 18) that are arrested annually in the United States. Juvenile facilities are now having a problem with overcrowding that is due to some closing for lack of funding.

Juvenile offenders today, begin with committing crimes as early as 12 years old, some at 10 years old. The death penalty for juveniles convicted of murder has been a very heated issue. There are adults who would protest that the United States are killing babies. There are others who just want justice, no matter what age the offender is. The United States has until recently been one of few nations in the world to allow execution of juveniles convicted of murder. There were 14% of juveniles convicted for execution and 86% were reversed or commuted. From 1973 to 2004, a total of 228 juvenile death sentences have been imposed. 61 adults had been arrested and convicted for crimes they committed when they were juveniles. The Department of Justice in 2003 created the Department of justice Authorization Act, which was built on the premise that juvenile offenders should be held accountable for their actions through the swift and consistent application of sanctions that are proportionate to the offense. The Juvenile Justice Realignment Act of 2007 (California Senate Bill 81) mandated that juveniles charged with all but the most serious felonies, be adjudicated and supervised within their counties of residence.

The act also helped shift non-violent out of secure facilities and into county facilities and programs. Offenders being held in detention centers are given the opportunity to (or ordered by court) to attend school and receive the high school diploma, GED, or even some college credits. Many detention centers also offer the inmates a chance to have jobs working around the prison, such as a teachers’ assistant, gardener, or working in the kitchen. The focus in today’s society of the juvenile justice system is to rehabilitate juveniles, rather than to imprison and punish them.

Many states have special programs in the facilities to try to change the offenders in order to return them to society problem free. The court system today rest on the age of the offender and the offenders conduct. When one or both parents are in or have been in prison it doubles the chances that the child will eventually commit a crime and go to prison as well. The changes throughout the 100 year history have seen many rises and falls. From children getting burned at the stake to children as you as six or seven were getting housed with horrible adult criminals.

There have been many changes as to how the court system handles children. The least crimes committed by a young child, they will put in a detention center, but if they commit a horrible crime, even as young as 14 years old, they will try that child as an adult. That child will be put in an adult jail with an adult that has committed the same crimes. Juvenile courts have come a long way on how to handle the offenses that these young offenders have committed. But some cases should not be tried in the juvenile court system, instead of being sent to the adult system.

The courts should also look to the parents and how their environment effects their decisions, and the mental health and well-being of these young children. Many adults still disagree with how the juvenile court system works, especially the parents of the victims. Some believe that juveniles that commit horrid crimes should be tried as adults; instead they are put through the juvenile system. Then juvenile gets out when they are 18 or 21 years of age. There should be a fine line drawn of when they should be convicted in the adult system.