History and development

The Progressive Era spanned between 1900 and 1918, during this time there was extensive social reform where Americans saw the increase of women's rights and activism against child labor and labor reform. Preceding this era juvenile offenders above the age of seven were imprisoned with adult offenders. "Historically this was an acceptable structure of practice until political and social reformers, as well as the research of psychologists in the 18th and 19th centuries, began a shift in society's views on juvenile delinquents" (American Bar Association).

These political and social reformers believed in rehabilitation for juvenile offenders and built the New York House of Refuge in 1824. This home was an alternative to housing juvenile and adult offenders together. This home was a model for other states and soon they began to build reformatory homes for youth offenders and in 1855 the Chicago Reform School opened. These changes in the criminal justice system established that society was responsible for how juvenile offenders were treated and that they were responsible for making positive changes in their lives prior to becoming caught up in the criminal court system. "Youth were no longer tried as adult offenders. Their cases were heard in a somewhat informal court designed for juveniles, often without the assistance of attorneys. Extenuating evidence, outside of the legal facts surrounding the crime or delinquent behavior, was taken into consideration by the judge" (Chai, 2000). In 1899 the first juvenile court in the United States was established in Cook County, Illinois. The main idea within the juvenile court system was to rehabilitate rather than punish offenders. This idea was based on the legal doctrine "parens patriae" this doctrine was based that the state was to serve as guardian or as the parental role of the juvenile.

By the 1960s juvenile courts had jurisdiction of cases involving anyone under the age of 18 and any case the state wanted transferred to Superior court were requested through a wavier and approved only by the juvenile court's authority. It appeared that the main goal of the court was to have civil proceedings in lieu of criminal actions. However these proceedings violated a juvenile's right to due processes and in 1967 the Supreme Court ruled In Re: Gault affirmed the necessity of requiring juvenile courts to respect the due process of law rights of juveniles during their proceedings. The Supreme Court decision, delivered by Justice Abe Fortas, emphasized that youth had a right to receive fair treatment under the law and pointed out the following rights of minors:

  • "The right to receive notice of charges
  • The right to obtain legal counsel
  • The right to confrontation and cross-examination
  • The privilege against self-incrimination
  • The right to receive a transcript of the proceedings
  • The right to appellate review" (United States Supreme Court, 1967)

Following this Supreme Court ruling legislation was passed to discourage juvenile delinquency. In 1968 the Juvenile Delinquency Prevention and Control Act passed and in 1974 the Delinquency Prevention Act replaced it. This piece of legislation enacted several offices to prevent juvenile delinquency and to help juvenile offenders when they were released from facilities. The agencies that derived from the Act were:

  • The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP)
  • The Runaway Youth Program, and
  • The National Institute for Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (NIJJDP)

Based on the articles that I reviewed the history of the Juvenile Justice System was set up to protect the juveniles. Yet there seems to be a pitfall in how far the system has gone in protecting them. In Juvenile Justice and Openness an article by Kathleen Cullinan, she states that compared with the rest of the American judicial system, juvenile court operates under water, beneath varying layers of secrecy." (Cullinan, 2000). I would have to agree with that assessment the court appears to be more concerned with protecting the identity of a juvenile rather the rehabilitating. Based on the review of all the articles that I researched state that the main history of the juvenile system is reduce the culpability of the offender, rather than to make them face the music so to speak.


  • American Bar Association. (n.d.). The History of Juvenile Justice. Retrieved February 21, 2010, from American Bar Association: http://www.abanet.org/publiced/features/DYJpart1.pdf
  • Chai F. (2000). Juvenile justice: Reform after one-hundred years.The American Criminal Law Review,37(4),1409-1428. Retrieved February 21, 2010, from Research Library. (Document ID:68696174).
  • Cullinan,K.(2009,July). Juvenile Justice and Openness.News Media and the Law,33(3),4-6,8-9. Retrieved February 21, 2010, from Research Library. (Document ID:1844972121).
  • Lang, S. (2004). Behavioral Scientists Address Juvenile Justice. Human Ecology, 31(3), 25. Retrieved from MasterFILE Premier database.
  • Parker, M. (2006). Asphalt Justice: A Critique of The Criminal Justice System in America Journal of Comparative Family Studies, 37 (3), 479-481, Retrieved February 21, 2010, from Research Library. (Document ID: 1086065691)

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