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Juvenile Justice


In the 1800s the Child Savers Movement was dedicated to improving the conditions of children in America. They promoted free public education and child labor laws restricting the use of children in factories. Social reformers in the nineteenth century were distressed that youngsters charged with crimes were placed in facilities along with hardened adult criminals. Reformers claimed children who came out of prison were more likely to turn to a life of crime or be harmful to society. Most states created work farms and reform schools for children convicted of crimes.

During the nineteenth century, juvenile crime rates were low and not considered a major issue. With rapid population growth, however, both in city size and through east European immigration, children faced serious neglect and poverty. Uneducated children who lived in poverty were likely to commit crimes, and reformers believed they were a threat to not only themselves but to the nation as well.

Reformers hoped supervision of children whose parents worked long hours in factories would help prevent crime. They turned to the English common law concept of parens patriae, where the government had the right to become the parent of children in need, to save them from terrible living conditions and protect them from criminal influences. The government was responsible for shaping the habits and morals of juveniles.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationCrime and Criminal LawJuvenile Justice - Changing Social Attitudes Toward Children, Reformers, Juvenile Courts, Juvenile Crime Statistics, Changes In The System