In colonial America, parental authority which was always headed by a father was recognized as the principal arbiter of the fate of the rebellious and naughty children. The colonial courts also recognized parents as the ultimate authority over children and also their masters. Death penalty was permitted for incorrigible children from parents and masters. Problems encountered in the penal institutions in this era is that prisons and jails housed men, women and children together in the same cell and were not separated. There was also no separation between the sane and mentally ill inmates and all received the same treatment.
Juvenile correctional system did not exist in this era; juvenile delinquents and incorrigibles were incarcerated in prisons or other adult facilities. They could also be put in pillories, stocks, humiliated in the public and also beaten. There was therefore need for definition and development of correctional program throughout the era for the juvenile. (Martin, 2004). This paper focuses on the implementation steps of the juvenile justice system to the modern world and also its effectiveness. There have been major shifts of the federal juvenile since the 1960s.
Local responsibility for the juvenile misbehavior was by then fostered by federal policy makers together with community organization models in the early 1960s. However these programs were generally not successful. This led to the second shift which came from a number of presidential commissions studying the problems of crime and violence. (Roberts, 2004) There has also been a dramatic policy innovation such as the decriminalization of juvenile offenders from official court processing and de-institutionalization of juvenile offenders.
The result of this was the passing of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) in 1974. This bill had certain intentions; to provide additional funds to communities so that they can improve delinquency prevention programs, de-institutionalize status offenders, establish new mechanism for dealing with run away youths, and help in removing juvenile from adult jails and lock up these facilities. (Bartol & Bartol 1989). In 1970’s a major change in juvenile justice policy began towards “law and order” philosophy.
The results of JJDPA legislation became more controlling and the act was amended in 1977. Reagan administration challenged juvenile justice system as concerned with protecting juvenile offenders at the expense of the society and its victims. Since 1992, there have been even tougher laws which regarded prosecution of serious violent and chronic juvenile offenders. (Armstrong, 2001). The law lowered the age at which a juvenile could be transferred to an adult court, making the process for transferring the juvenile easier and also expanded the list of offenses that could result to the transfer of a juvenile.
Semi-legal and semi welfare bureaucracy has also been created which has broadened the effective social control mechanisms of the juvenile justice system without giving attention to children legal rights. (Dattilio et al, 2007). Apart from the changes in the labels that now the children wear, no great changes have been witnessed on the treatment of the children although many have been decriminalized. There has also been no big difference on the number of juvenile offenders in custody despite the two decades of reform.
This has been due to a failure in implementation which has occurred at both the local and state levels. However, some of the desired outcomes of the change in the juvenile judicial system have been witnessed. These include; offenders being made productive members of the society through rehabilitation, reduction in recidivism and criminal behaviors through deterrence. Another desired out come has been elimination of the offender as a threat to the society through incapacitation and also punishment of the offender through retribution.
References Armstrong G. S. (2001) Private vs. Public Operation of Juvenile Correctional Facilities LFB Scholarly Publishing LLC. Bartol and Bartol (1989) Current Perspectives in Forensic Psychology and Criminal Justice SAGE Dattilio F. M, Beck A. T. Freeman A. (2007) – Cognitive-behavioral Strategies in Crisis Intervention? New York Martin G. (2004) Juvenile justice SAGE. Roberts R. R. (2004) Juvenile justice book; past, present, future, Oxford university Press.