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Juvenile Justice: History and Philosophy

The Origins Of The Juvenile Court, The Progressive Juvenile Court, The Constitutional Domestication Of The Juvenile Court

Ideological changes in the cultural conception of children and in strategies of social control during the nineteenth century led to the creation of the first juvenile court in Cook County, Illinois, in 1899. Culminating a century-long process of differentiating youths from adult offenders, Progressive reformers applied new theories of social control to new ideas about childhood and created the juvenile court as a social welfare alternative to criminal courts to respond to criminal and noncriminal misconduct by youths.

The U.S. Supreme Court's decision In re Gault, 387 U.S. 1 (1967), began to transform the juvenile court into a very different institution than the Progressives contemplated. Progressives envisioned an informal, discretionary social welfare agency whose dispositions reflected the "best interests" of the child. In Gault, the Supreme Court engrafted formal due process safeguards at trial onto juvenile courts' individualized treatment sentencing schema, although the Court did not intend to alter the juvenile court's therapeutic mission. In the decades since Gault, judicial decisions, legislative amendments, and administrative changes have modified juvenile courts' jurisdiction, purposes, and procedures. These changes have transformed the juvenile court and fostered a procedural and substantive convergence with adult criminal courts.



Breed v. Jones, 421 U.S. 519 (1975).

Ex parte Crouse, 4 Whart. p (Pa. 1838).

In re Gault, 387 U.S. 1 (1967).

In re Winship, 397 U.S. 358 (1970).

McKeiver v. Pennsylvania, 403 U.S. 528 (1971).

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Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationCrime and Criminal Law