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Juvenile Justice - Getting Tough On Crime

criminal adult rates juveniles

By 1980 youth gangs coupled with gun violence caught the public's attention. In Schall v. Martin (1984) the Court The Juvenile Delinquency Prevention Act reaffirmed that states had to keep juveniles separate from adults in jails and prisons, causing all-juvenile prisons, like this one in South Dakota, to open. (AP/Wide World Photos)
ruled that juvenile court judges could arrest and hold (detain) juveniles, but they must have a special hearing and inform parents of the date, charges, and reasons for detention. Juveniles were sent in greater numbers to adult courts to face more severe punishment, including possible execution. Some states even passed laws making parents legally responsible for their children's criminal acts.

Juvenile crime rates rose steadily from 1980 to 1994. A rash of fatal school shootings in the 1990s kept fear of juvenile crime high and many believed dangerous offenders were not punished enough in the juvenile justice system. Violent juvenile crime rates, however, declined after 1994 and by 2000 had fallen back to 1980 levels.

Despite lower crime rates, fear of juvenile violence remained high. As a result, the line between juvenile and adult criminal justice was less clear than in earlier decades—juvenile sentences were tougher, a higher number of cases were deferred to adult criminal courts, and youthful offenders were held to greater levels of accountability for their crimes.


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