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Juvenile Justice: Juvenile Court

Continuing Controversies

Justice Stewart's comments seemed quite prescient as the twentieth century ended. For thirty years following the Gault decision, state legislatures across the U.S. continued the due process reforms endorsed by the Supreme Court. Using various mechanisms, lawmakers greatly limited the discretion of juvenile court judges and made the juvenile court process more evidence-driven and formalized. They also sent far more juveniles directly to criminal court, effectively abolishing the juvenile court's jurisdiction over many categories of young offenders. The purposes and procedures of juvenile justice were becoming increasingly similar to those of criminal justice. Juvenile justice interventions that once targeted the depth of an offender's troubles were increasingly focused on the gravity of the offender's behavior. If the adequacy of intervention was once evaluated by its intensity, it was now to be judged by its duration as well.

As lawmakers reinvented the goals and procedures of juvenile courts in order to make them more like those of criminal courts, they became increasingly interested in new provisions for transferring juveniles to adult court. At first, transfer policies focused on a few exceptional cases, such as the most violent offenders. Soon, however, transfers were expanded to include drug offenders, juveniles accused of weapon charges, and even chronic property offenders. States first attempted merely to increase the number of youth waived to criminal court by judges. Later, the procedural difficulties involved in judicial waiver became burdensome and states began to experiment with other methods of increasing the level of punishment available for juvenile offenders.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationCrime and Criminal LawJuvenile Justice: Juvenile Court - Origins, Expansion, Retrenchment, Structure, Personnel, Process, Caseload, Juvenile Rights, Continuing Controversies