Juvenile Justice System

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Since its foundation, the United States Juvenile Justice System has experienced a series of changes in its philosophy and practice. When the first juvenile court was established in Illinois in 1899, the juvenile justice system upheld the concept of protecting, reeducating and rehabilitating youth (Wilson and Petersilia, 2011). Historically, juvenile courts did not see and treat delinquent minors as criminals; instead, juvenile offenders were viewed as neglected youths, who were products of their environment. Accordingly, juvenile courts did not charge with any crime and, often times, parents were held accountable for contributing to their children’s delinquency. Thus, the court’s intervention, guidance, and supervision were thought to be “required…show more content…
Previously, delinquent minors were confined in jails with adults, which created the problem of youth learning more criminal behaviors. Consequently, the creation of a separate legal system for juvenile delinquency allowed juvenile courts to implement civil proceedings as opposed to criminal proceedings implemented in the adult system (Wilson and Petersilia, 2011). Civil proceedings enable officials to focus on the minor’s problems and needs, rather than the alleged offense, and provide various options suitable for the youth’s rehabilitation. Further, the informality adopted in the structure and procedures of the juvenile justice system did not give delinquent minor many of the procedural and legal protection available to adults (Wilson and Petersilia,…show more content…
Indeed, the Supreme Court’s 1967 decision in In re Gault determined that it was necessary to protect youth’s legal rights even though juvenile courts used civil proceedings (CITE). In 1974, the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act included more protections for minors. These additional protections required juvenile court judges to prove the minor’s guilt beyond reasonable doubt, which made the juvenile justice more adult-like (Wilson and Petersilia, 2011). Additionally, parents were no longer held accountable for their children’s delinquent acts. Consequently, parents’ participation in their children’s legal proceedings was restricted and limited. With the juvenile crime rates increasing nationwide during the 1980s and early 1990s, the juvenile justice system adopted “get-though” policies to reduce judges’ discretion and implement more punitive sentences (CITE). The new waive of punitive policies introduced offense-based sentencing, such as blended sentences, mandatory minimum sentences and extended jurisdiction, which gave juveniles longer and harsher sentences (CITE). Furthermore, these sentences made possible for judges to transfer juveniles to the adult system and be tried as an

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