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date: 28 May 2018

Juvenile Justice in the United States

Summary and Keywords

Juvenile justice is a technical term that refers to the specific area of law and affiliated institutions, most notably the juvenile court, with jurisdiction over the cases of minors who are accused of being miscreants. Although the idea that the law should treat minors differently from adults predates the American Revolution, juvenile justice itself is a Progressive Era invention. Its institutional legitimacy rests on the power and responsibility of the state to act as a parent (parens patriae) on behalf of those who cannot care for themselves. Since the establishment of the world’s first juvenile court in Chicago in 1899, this American idea of creating separate justice systems for juveniles has spread across the nation and much of the world. For more than a century, American states have used their juvenile justice systems to respond to youth crime and delinquency. Since the 1960s, the US Supreme Court has periodically considered whether juvenile courts must provide the same constitutional due process safeguards as adult criminal courts and whether juveniles prosecuted in the criminal justice system can receive the same sentences as adults, such as the death penalty or life without the possibility of parole.

Keywords: crime, criminal justice, delinquency, due process, juvenile, justice, jurisdiction, parens patriae, Progressive Era, “super-predator,”, youth

The ideological origins of American juvenile justice predate the American Revolution. As the historian Holly Brewer has shown, the architects of modern democratic theory, including the political and educational theorist John Locke, argued that children lacked reason and thus should not be allowed to participate in self-government, have a voice in legal proceedings, or make binding contracts. Instead, it was the responsibility of their parents and/or the state to educate children so that they could later exercise the rights and obligations of citizenship. Children were entitled to custody, not liberty.1

Compilers of the common law, such as the treatise writer William Blackstone, incorporated this assumption about children’s inability to reason into the criminal law. They codified a tripartite schema for handling the cases of minors who were accused of committing felonies. Children younger than seven years were immune to prosecution because they were deemed incapable of forming the intent to commit a crime (i.e., mens rea or a guilty mind). Children between seven and fourteen years of age were also presumed inculpable, but the state could seek to rebut this presumption. Once children reached fourteen years of age, they were tried and punished as adults.

The opening in the 1820s and 1830s of houses of refuge started the process of segregating children from adults for correctional purposes and downplayed potential differences between how the state should handle cases of child neglect and juvenile delinquency. The 1838 Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision in Ex Parte Crouse established the principle that a state could use indeterminate sentences to incarcerate children whose parents could or would not care for them.2 The decision applied the concept of parens patriae (the state as a father or parent) to legitimize the community acting as a guardian for a child. The court asked, “May not the natural parents, when unequal to the task of education, or unworthy of it, be superseded by the parens patriae, or common guardian of the community?” Crouse also analogized the reformatory to a school, not a prison. By doing so, the opinion initiated the legal practice of confining neglected children with juvenile delinquents and of differentiating juvenile correctional institutions from adult prisons, even though houses of refuge and reform schools often became brutal mini prisons for children.3

This antebellum decision was emblematic of the “common law vision of a well-regulated society” that emphasized the social nature of human beings and granted vast discretionary power to local officials to police individual behavior for the sake of the welfare of the entire community.4 Although the common-law vision of a well-regulated society eventually gave way to the rise of a more individually based conception of constitutional law after the Civil War, state courts continued to use Crouse as a precedent into the 20th century.5

Progressive Juvenile Justice

The leaders of the juvenile court movement at the end of the 19th century, popularly known as “the child savers,” belonged to a new generation of progressive reformers that searched for sociological answers and governmental solutions to interrelated social problems such as poverty and crime.6 They argued that treatment, not punishment, should serve as the rationale for a separate justice system for juveniles.7 They worked with influential stakeholders to lobby state lawmakers to pass legislation that would divert children’s cases from the criminal court. Their vision for a separate children’s court became an institutional reality, when the world’s first juvenile court, located in Chicago, Illinois, opened its doors on July 3, 1899.8 Remarkably, within a generation, juvenile courts had become a basic feature of urban governance in the United States. By 1925, every state except for Maine and Wyoming had established juvenile courts, and the juvenile court idea had spread globally. Such courts now operate in almost every nation in the world.9

Juvenile courts have worked differently across time and space but share two critically important features. First, their jurisdiction is age based. These courts hear only the cases of persons below a prescribed age. Second, juvenile courts daily put into practice the theory that criminal charges for young offenders should be tried in a separate court. The architects of the Illinois Juvenile Court Act of 1899 purposefully designed the new court to be sensitive to the developmental needs of children. As the court’s first probation officer, Timothy Hurley, emphasized, “a child should be treated as a child.”10 To create such an environment, its architects stripped away the distinguishing features of a criminal court, including its adversarial process. Juvenile court personnel made intake decisions, filed delinquency petitions, presented evidence in court, and supervised children on probation.11 Until the late 1960s, defense and prosecuting attorneys appeared only occasionally in juvenile courts in the United States.12

Progressive Era state lawmakers defined “delinquency” as a noncriminal act. Grace Abbott, the social-work pioneer and chief of the US Children’s Bureau (1921–1934), explained why this legal definition mattered. Instead of classifying the child as a criminal offender who should be punished, the state now defined children as delinquents who were “misdirected and misguided and needing aid, encouragement, help, and assistance.”13 This approach, as she explained, turned the concept of equal justice on its head. “The old conception of evenhanded justice was that each offender should receive exactly the same treatment for an offense committed with the same intent. But equality of treatment,” she added, “is not the test of justice in the juvenile court. A new conception of what constitutes justice for children was adopted by the state in the juvenile-court legislation. In the juvenile courts children are all treated alike only when each is treated in accordance with his needs.”14 Whereas criminals deserved punishment, juvenile delinquents required individualized treatment plans.

The first generation of juvenile court reformers envisioned that the court’s personnel, especially presiding judges and probation officers, would incorporate scientific research on child development into the court’s daily operations. The juvenile court would not only divert children from being destroyed by the criminal justice system but also “cure” them of their delinquency. They expected the judge to cultivate a courtroom environment focused on individualized treatment, relied upon probation instead of incarceration, and shielded children from unnecessary and stigmatizing publicity.15

Building on the paternalistic ideal of the state as a father, embodied in the legal concept of parens patriae, Julian Mack famously argued in the pages of the Harvard Law Review that juvenile courts should function as chancery courts that used their equity power to focus on the needs of their clientele.16 Progressive juvenile justice rested on the foundational ideal that the juvenile court was the legal embodiment of the state acting as a kindly parent to reform, not punish, children. These courts heard the cases of abused, neglected, and delinquent children.

Juvenile courts, as Mack observed, were only one part of larger communities that relied primarily on private associations to provide social services to families in need. Mack and other leading reformers knew that some children, especially African Americans, were excluded from receiving services from these sources. As Grace Abbott later noted, “Thus, whether Negro children, for example, are receiving equal treatment in our juvenile courts depends upon whether the resources available for treatment of delinquent Negro children are as adequate and scientific as for white children.”17 Even though resources were scarce, black child-savers fought to have the cases of African American children tried in juvenile court instead of the more punitive criminal justice system.18

The idealized juvenile court that the first generation of child savers spoke about so glowingly existed more concretely in sociological theory than in everyday practice. Even in Chicago’s model court, conflicts erupted from the beginning. They ranged from individual disputes, such as an ill mother asking the governor to convince the court to release her incarcerated son, to political mobilization, such as that of Catholics seeking to remove a Jewish judge they accused of interfering in their community’s affairs. These critics were challenging the underlying assumption that the interests of the child and the state were the same and questioned the reformers’ motives for wanting to save their children.19

Others challenged the legal fiction that juvenile courts treated but did not punish children. In Criminal Justice in America (1930), Dean Roscoe Pound of Harvard Law School maintained that “our legal treatment of delinquents is not preventative but is punitive in its conception and administration.”20 Although numerous lawsuits questioned the constitutionality of depriving children of liberty without following the same due-process standards required in criminal courts, they were largely unsuccessful until the 1950s.21 As a result, juvenile courts could be administered very differently from criminal courts.

The enormous diversity among juvenile courts both across the nation and even within states makes it difficult to write a comprehensive history of juvenile justice. This diversity stemmed from the fact that American juvenile courts are statutory creations. Not every state followed the Illinois model that granted juvenile courts equity jurisdiction over children who committed delinquent acts. In New York, Maryland, and New Jersey, for example, children’s courts operated as separate sites within the criminal justice system and used more formal procedures than courts that followed Illinois’s chancery model.22

It has also been difficult for lawmakers to establish juvenile courts in rural areas. Initially, many states did not create these courts in sparsely populated areas. Later in the 20th century, when statewide juvenile justice systems were in operation, the same judge in a rural area often presided over both the criminal and juvenile court sessions. The diversity of practices and terminology in American juvenile justice, which still exists, has complicated the efforts of researchers to provide national snapshots of juvenile justice at any particular moment in time.23

The clientele for juvenile courts, however, has largely comprised children from predominantly poor and marginalized ethnic and racial communities. During the Progressive Era, Poles and Italians were disproportionately represented in the juvenile justice system, and later the same was true for African Americans and Latinos. Scholars have used class as the primary analytical category with which to analyze the history of juvenile justice because of the concentration of children from poor families.

And, since the 1970s, scholars have drawn on feminist theories to explain why juvenile courts treated boys’ and girls’ antisocial behavior differently. Girls, who have constituted fewer than 20 percent of the cases in juvenile court, have historically been incarcerated at substantially higher rates than boys.24 Adolescent girls exploring their sexuality or challenging their parents’ authority risked confinement for noncriminal misbehavior or status offenses (i.e., behaviors that are illegal only because the offender is a minor). Policing girls for the so-called crime of precocious sexuality became an entrenched practice in juvenile courts across North America.25

Even though influential children’s advocates, such as Grace Abbott, publicly admitted by the 1920s that the juvenile court had not lived up to its initial promise to treat and cure delinquency, they adamantly defended the decision to establish the specialized court. “No mistake was made,” Abbott stressed, “in taking children and young persons out of the jurisdiction of the criminal courts and creating specialized courts for dealing with them.”26 The juvenile court, in her opinion, remained a good idea because it recognized the developmental needs of children and kept them out of the criminal justice system.

Progressive juvenile justice did not establish a single system for all youth crime. Although many child welfare experts called for juvenile courts to have original and exclusive jurisdiction over all cases that involved crimes committed by people younger than eighteen, state legislatures rejected this approach. Instead, the majority of states developed a dual system in which juvenile courts tried most but not all cases involving offenders up to a legislatively prescribed age limit. By 1930, almost every state had created its own combination of a maximum age limit and legislatively excluded offenses, or had some version of concurrent jurisdiction. Concurrent jurisdiction meant that some cases were eligible to be tried in either juvenile or criminal court. In such a system, the prosecutor could choose to charge a child who committed a crime in either juvenile or adult court, based on the prosecutor’s own discretion. Meanwhile, juvenile courts across the nation developed their own local cultures for trying cases that included transferring at least some adolescents to criminal court. Once a state settled on its structure for trying young offenders, the framework remained fairly stable into the 1970s.27

The Transformation of the Juvenile Court

The worlds of criminal and juvenile justice changed during the 1960s and 1970s. The appearance of the Model Penal Code in 1962 revitalized the study of substantive criminal law and inspired thirty-four states to revise their criminal codes in the coming years.28 The American Law Institute developed the Model Penal Code to encourage state legislatures to create more up-to-date and uniform penal laws. Several states, including California and New York, also commissioned major studies of their juvenile justice systems.29 What started out as an exercise in federalism (i.e., individual states experimenting with criminal and juvenile justice reform) quickly became nationalized during the Supreme Court’s Due Process Revolution (1961–1972), which transformed first the criminal justice system and then juvenile justice.30 The Supreme Court’s 1967 landmark In re Gault decision, written by Justice Abe Fortas, rejected the traditional parens patriae justification for why juvenile courts did not need robust due-process safeguards. Fortas relied on extensive social-scientific research to demonstrate that the reality of juvenile justice in the 1960s often contradicted the benevolent rhetoric that had long justified its informal proceedings. In Gault, for the first time, the court held that fundamental due-process protections must be granted to children in juvenile court adjudicatory hearings, including the right to notice, counsel, confrontation, and cross-examination of witnesses, and the privilege against self-incrimination. Over the course of the next decade, the Supreme Court went further, holding that juvenile courts, like criminal courts, must use the “beyond a reasonable doubt standard” in determining innocence or guilt, and that the prohibition against “double jeopardy” attached to juvenile court hearings.31

As the Supreme Court’s due-process revolution gradually wound down, the justices in McKeiver v. Pennsylvania (1971) stopped short of requiring juvenile courts to provide jury trials.32 Justice Harry Blackmun, who had recently been appointed to the court by President Richard Nixon, explained that mandating jury trials would “remake the juvenile proceeding into a fully adversary process and put an effective end to what has been the idealistic prospect of an intimate, informal protective proceeding.”33 Thus, the Supreme Court did not require juvenile courts to provide juveniles with all the due-process protections required in criminal court, including the right to a jury trial and the right to appellate review.

Like the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Brown v. Board of Education (1954), which declared segregated schools unconstitutional, Gault also proved difficult to implement because of local resistance.34 The lack of procedural due-process protections in many of the nation’s juvenile courts, including notifying juveniles of their right to counsel, has continued into the 21st century.35

Moreover, scholars have argued that the Supreme Court’s Gault and Winship decisions shook the ideological foundations of the juvenile justice system. As the political scientist Christopher Manfredi has contended, the court’s decisions that made juvenile court proceedings more like criminal proceedings “articulated a new conception of childhood that embodied a broader understanding of children’s capacity for independent judgment and action.” He added, “This new perspective encouraged both reform advocates and state legislatures to shift the focus on juvenile court proceedings from identifying and eliminating the behavioral causes of delinquency to holding juveniles more directly accountable for the harm caused by their offenses.”36 Increasingly, during the late 1970s, the philosophy of “just deserts” became the rallying cry of crime control advocates who argued that adolescents who were accused of committing serious and violent crimes should be prosecuted and punished as adults.

During the 1970s, the federal government also began to play a more prominent role in juvenile justice. The passage of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act of 1974 created the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), provided block grants to states, created advisory groups to assist state governors in the allocation of federal funds, and established the National Advisory Committee for Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention to develop national standards for the administration of juvenile justice. The federal law required states participating in the program to remove all status offenders, such as truants or runaways, from secure detention and correctional facilities and ensure that all juvenile prisoners were separate from adult offenders in prisons. By the end of the 20th century, the cases of status offenders dropped to approximately 15 percent of the juvenile court caseload. Status offenders were also institutionalized much less frequently than they had been earlier in the 20th century.37 The overall drop, however, masked how girls’ cases were handled. Higher percentages of girls than boys were still incarcerated, although many were placed in private facilities.38

Although juvenile justice experts during the 1970s sought to reconcile the ideology of parens patriae with procedural due-process protection to create a juvenile court that would provide social services while simultaneously protecting children’s constitutional rights, those policy experts ultimately lost control of the reform process in the 1980s.

The Rise and Fall of the “Get Tough” Era

In response to a soaring rate of juvenile arrests and serious and violent crime in the late 1980s, including the doubling of the murder rate, most states passed laws during the early 1990s to make it easier to prosecute children’s cases in the criminal court system.39 By 1995, twenty-seven states allowed for the prosecution of a ten-year-old charged with murder as an adult.40 The trend toward punishing adolescents more severely in both juvenile and criminal courts was part of the dramatic increase in the use of imprisonment in the United States during the late 20th century that led to a quintupling of the number of individuals in prison between the early 1970s and mid-1990s. Initially, the diversionary rationale of the juvenile justice system spared many children and adolescents from this “Get Tough” approach that was first adopted in the criminal justice system.41

But the juvenile court’s success in diverting juveniles from the criminal justice system during the 1970s and 1980s contributed to the juvenile court itself becoming a target in the 1990s. Moreover, several prominent criminologists popularized the idea that children growing up in “moral poverty” had become a new breed of “super-predators.” As the criminologist John DiIulio warned in 1995,

On the horizon, therefore, are tens of thousands of severely morally impoverished juvenile super-predators. They are perfectly capable of committing the most heinous acts of physical violence for the most trivial reasons (for example, a perception of slight disrespect or the accident of being in their path). They fear neither the stigma of arrest nor the pain of imprisonment. They live by the meanest code of the meanest streets, a code that reinforces rather than restrains their violent, hair-trigger mentality. In prison or out, the things that super-predators get by their criminal behavior—sex, drugs, money—are their own immediate rewards. Nothing else matters to them. So for as long as their youthful energies hold out, they will do what comes “naturally”: murder, rape, rob, assault, burglarize, deal deadly drugs, and get high.42

The moral panic over super-predators contributed to federal and state lawmakers enacting laws to prosecute and punish more children as adults, and shifted the power to determine which children should be transferred from juvenile court to the adult criminal justice system from juvenile court judges to prosecutors.43 Ironically, when juveniles were tried in criminal proceedings, they automatically received all the rights that the court had guaranteed them in juvenile proceedings and the right to a jury trial.

The punitive turn in American juvenile law raised troubling questions, especially as advancements in neuroscience highlighted significant differences between adolescent and adult brains.44 This science reaffirmed longstanding ideas about the difference between children and adults and raised new questions about the competency of younger defendants to stand trial in criminal court and the related issue of the culpability of adolescents for their offenses. In addition, the disproportionate representation of minorities in the juvenile and criminal justice systems focused attention on the differential handling of cases of youth crime based on race and ethnicity.45 Finally, policy experts criticized the economic costs and effectiveness of prosecuting and punishing juveniles as adult offenders.46

As the eminent criminologist Michael Tonry noted in his 2008 Presidential Address to the American Society for Criminology, Americans were now punishing their fellow citizens, including minors, in ways that were “unimaginable in most other Western countries.”47 These practices included “the prosecution of children as if they were adults.” This state of affairs led scholars to search for answers in American history and culture to explain the widening divide between American and European approaches to criminal justice.48

Significantly, by the time that many “Get Tough” on juvenile crime laws were being adopted in the mid-1990s, the nation’s rate of youth violence had already begun to drop dramatically.49 This decline opened up the possibility of refocusing juvenile justice policies. The John T. and Catherine D. MacArthur Foundation, for example, spent $150 million to support research on adolescent development and juvenile justice in order to develop sound public policies and model programs that addressed the related issues of competency and culpability.50

Beginning in 2005, children’s-rights advocates won a series of Supreme Court cases in which the court held unconstitutional the juvenile death penalty,51 mandatory life sentences without the possibility of parole for minors for non-homicidal crime,52 and mandatory life without the possibility of parole for minors even for the crime of homicide.53 All these decisions reinforced the idea that children and adolescents are immature, vulnerable, and malleable.54 These decisions symbolized the end of the “Get Tough” Era and constitutionalized the idea that, at least for sentencing purposes, children had to be treated differently from adults. Yet much of the punitive legislation from the moral panic over super-predators during the 1990s is still part of American juvenile justice in the 21st century.55

Discussion of the Literature

There are three distinct traditions in the historical literature on American juvenile justice: the progressive mythmakers, the skeptics, and the liberal preservationists. All three traditions began with examinations of the creation of the juvenile court at the turn of the 20th century, and scholars working in the skeptical and liberal preservationist traditions have analyzed the subsequent evolution of American juvenile justice.

Progressive mythmakers, such as the prominent social-settlement leader Jane Addams, characterized the juvenile court movement as a revolutionary and humanitarian advancement in child protection. In 1935, Addams famously portrayed the beginnings of the juvenile court more than thirty years earlier as a radical departure from past practices.

She reminisced:

There was almost a change in mores when the Juvenile Court was established. The child was brought before the judge with no one to prosecute him and with no one to defend him—the judge and all concerned were merely trying to find out what could be done on his behalf. The element of conflict was absolutely eliminated and with it, all notion of punishment as such with its curiously belated connotation.56

Similar characterizations of the juvenile court as a benevolent institution that sought to treat children, instead of punishing them as criminals, were commonplace. For example, Herbert Lou’s Juvenile Courts in the United States (1927) announced that until a “better and finer agency may be evolved, the juvenile court will remain to serve as a fountain of mercy, truth, and justice to our handicapped children.”57 Until the late 1960s, non-historians used this framework to write the histories of juvenile justice for aspiring professionals who intended to work within the system.

In the 1960s, civil-rights lawyers and scholars questioned both the theory and practice of juvenile courts. Their scathing critiques helped form the skeptical tradition that challenged the assumptions of scholars like Lou and informed the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in In re Gault (1967). The social and rights revolutions of the 1960s also provided the context for Anthony Platt’s The Child Savers (1969), an instant classic in the field that used the sociological concept of social control to reinterpret the ideological origins of the juvenile court. According to Platt, powerful interest groups supported the expansion of state power and intervention into the lives of poor families in order to impose so-called middle-class values on them and their children. Since then, scholars in the skeptical tradition have analyzed how juvenile justice systems have perpetuated gender and racial hierarchies in American society.58 A subset of this scholarship draws on case files from these court systems to complicate the social-control thesis. Instead of focusing solely on the role of reformers as historical actors, these more nuanced studies, such as Mary Odem’s Delinquent Daughters (1996), emphasizes how children and their families exercised agency and negotiated with juvenile justice personnel.

The liberal preservationists accept many of the critiques offered by the skeptics but still emphasize the importance of the founding principle of the juvenile court that children should be treated as children and diverted from the criminal justice system.59 Their histories argue that the founders of the juvenile court were largely well intentioned but that the concerns of the skeptics must be addressed including the need for due-process safeguards to ensure that children’s rights are protected. Yet skeptics, such as Elizabeth Hinton, contend that liberals since the 1960s have been part of a bipartisan consensus that created crime-control policies that targeted black youth in highly segregated urban areas and set the stage for the rise of mass incarceration during the final decades of the 20th century.60

In addition to these three established traditions, scholars are beginning to write the history of juvenile justice in Indian Country.61 Historians have also begun to use a transnational perspective to understand the development and spread of juvenile justice ideas and practices across the world during the 20th century.62 Future studies will also do more to examine the changing relationship over time between juvenile and criminal justice systems, as well as the changing power relationships within juvenile courts brought about by the Gault revolution. Historians will also need to explain the rise and fall of “Get Tough” Era and analyze the significance of the Supreme Court drawing on brain science in its decisions to constitutionalize the idea that children are different from adults in the context of sentencing decisions.63

Primary Sources

Scholars of juvenile justice history have used a variety of qualitative and quantitative sources that include exposés of juvenile courts at work,64 government publications such as reports by the Children’s Bureau reports (1912–)65 and the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (1974–)66, U. Supreme Court decisions,67 international reports and laws,68 juvenile court case files and annual reports,69 manuscript collections that include the papers of prominent reformers, private organizations, and human rights organizations,70 newspapers,71 oral histories,72 popular-culture artifacts (such as film, television programming, and social media),73 and state and national legislation.74 Due to the longstanding interest in juvenile delinquency by many academic disciplines such as sociology, criminology, and law, historians have analyzed older MA theses, PhD dissertations, and law-review articles as primary sources. In addition, the reports of commissions in the United States that sought to reform juvenile justice policy during the 1970s and 1980s are valuable sources.75 Finally, the MacArthur Foundation maintains a website devoted to juvenile justice issues that include useful sources for scholars interested in contemporary issues.

Further Reading

Bernstein, Nell. Burning Down the House: The End of Juvenile Prison. New York: The New Press, 2016.Find this resource:

Bush, William S. Who Gets a Childhood: Race and Juvenile Justice in Twentieth-Century Texas. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2010.Find this resource:

Chávez-García, Miroslava. States of Delinquency: Race and Science in the Making of California’s Juvenile Justice System. Oakland: University of California Press, 2012.Find this resource:

Feld, Barry C. Bad Kids: Race and the Transformation of the Juvenile Court. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.Find this resource:

Feld, Barry C. The Evolution of the Juvenile Court: Race, Politics, and the Criminalizing of Juvenile Justice. New York: New York University Press, 2017.Find this resource:

Hinton, Elizabeth. From the War on Poverty to the War on Crime: The Making of Mass Incarceration in America. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2016.Find this resource:

Kupchik, Aaron. Judging Juveniles: Prosecuting Adolescents in Adult and Juvenile Court. New York: New York University Press, 2006.Find this resource:

Lou, Herbert. Juvenile Courts in the United States. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1927.Find this resource:

Mack, Julian W. “The Juvenile Court.” Harvard Law Review 23 (1909–1910): 104–122.Find this resource:

Odem, Mary E. Delinquent Daughters: Protecting and Policing Adolescent Female Sexuality in the United States 1885–1920. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina, 1995.Find this resource:

Platt, Anthony M. The Child Savers: The Invention of Delinquency. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1969.Find this resource:

Rosenheim, Margaret K., Franklin E. Zimring, David S. Tanenhaus and Bernardine Dohrn. A Century of Juvenile Justice. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002.Find this resource:

Schlossman, Steven L. Love and the American Delinquent: The Theory and Practice of “Progressive” Juvenile Justice, 1820–1920. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1977.Find this resource:

Steinberg, Lawrence, and Elizabeth S. Scott. Rethinking Juvenile Justice. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2010.Find this resource:

Tanenhaus, David S. Juvenile Justice in the Making. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004.Find this resource:

Ward, Geoff K. The Black Child-Savers: Racial Democracy and Juvenile Justice. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2012.Find this resource:

Zimring, Franklin E. American Juvenile Justice. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005.Find this resource:


(1.) Holly Brewer, By Birth or Consent: Children, Law, and the Anglo-American Revolution in Authority (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2005).

(2.) Ex Parte Crouse, 4 Wharton 9 (Pa. 1838).

(3.) Steven L. Schlossman, “Delinquent Children: The Juvenile Reform School,” in Oxford History of the Prison: The Practice of Punishment in Western Society, eds. Norval Morris and David J. Rothman (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993), 325–349.

(4.) William J. Novak, The People’s Welfare: Law and Regulation in Nineteenth-Century America (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1996).

(5.) David S. Tanenhaus, “Between Dependency and Liberty: The Conundrum of Children’s Rights in the Gilded Age,” Law and History Review 23 (Summer 2005): 351–386.

(6.) Barry C. Feld, Bad Kids: Race and the Transformation of the Juvenile Court (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999); Michael Willrich, City of Courts: Socializing Justice in Progressive Era Chicago (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003).

(7.) Julian W. Mack, “The Juvenile Court,” Harvard Law Review 23 (1909–1910): 104–122.

(8.) David S. Tanenhaus, Juvenile Justice in the Making (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004), 23.

(9.) Juvenile Justice in Global Perspective, eds. Franklin E. Zimring, Maximo Langer, and David S. Tanenhaus (New York: New York University Press, 2015).

(10.) T. D. Hurley, “Development of the Juvenile-Court Idea,” in Children’s Courts in the United States: Their Origin, Development, and Results (New York: AMS, 1973), 8.

(11.) See, e.g., Steven L. Schlossman, Transforming Juvenile Justice: Reform Ideals and Institutional Realities, 1825–1920 (DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 2005).

(12.) M. Marvin Finkelstein, Prosecution in the Juvenile Courts: Guidelines for the Future (US Department of Justice, 1973), 12.

(13.) Grace Abbott, The Child and the State, vol. 2 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1938), 332. Colorado, Missouri, and Tennessee used the language about “misdirected” children that Abbott quoted.

(14.) Abbott, The Child and the State, 332.

(15.) Bernard Flexner and Reuben Oppenheimer, The Legal Aspect of the Juvenile Court (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1922), 1–42.

(16.) Julian W. Mack, “The Juvenile Court,” Harvard Law Review 23 (1909–1910): 104–122.

(17.) Mack, “The Juvenile Court,” 332.

(18.) Geoff K. Ward, The Black Child-Savers: Racial Democracy and Juvenile Justice (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2012), chs. 5 and 6; and William S. Bush, Who Gets a Childhood: Race and Juvenile Justice in Twentieth-Century Texas (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2010).

(19.) David S. Tanenhaus, “The Evolution of Transfer out of the Juvenile Court,” in The Changing Borders of Juvenile Justice: Transfer of Adolescents to Criminal Court, eds. Jeffrey Fagan and Franklin E. Zimring (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 18.

(20.) Roscoe Pound, Criminal Justice in America (New York: Henry Holt, 1930), 33.

(21.) Chester James Antieau, “Constitutional Rights in Juvenile Court,” Cornell Law Quarterly 46 (Spring 1961): 387–415.

(22.) Mack, “The Juvenile Court,” 18–19.

(23.) For example, the Wickersham Committee’s Report on the Child Offender in the Federal System (1931) noted that state “legislation is constantly changing and therefore no information is strictly up to date” (158).

(24.) Steven L. Schlossman and Stephanie Wallach, “The Crime of Precocious Sexuality: Female Juvenile Delinquency in the Progressive Era,” Harvard Educational Review 48 (February 1978): 65–94.

(25.) Barry C. Feld, The Evolution of the Juvenile Court: Race, Politics, and the Criminalizing of Juvenile Justice (New York: New York University Press, 2017), ch. 6; and Jane B. Sprout and Anthony N. Doob, Justice for Girls? Stability and Change in the Youth Justice Systems of the United States and Canada (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009).

(26.) Abbott, Child and the State, 338.

(27.) Abbott, Child and the State, 25.

(28.) Michael Willrich, “Criminal Justice in the United States,” in The Cambridge History of Law in America, vol. 3, eds. Michael Grossberg and Christopher Tomlins (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008), 214.

(29.) California Governor’s Special Study Commission on Juvenile Justice Reports, pts. 1 and 2 (1960) and New York Joint Legislative Commission on Court Reorganization, report pt. 2, the Family Court Act (1962).

(30.) Willrich, “Criminal Justice in the United States,” 212–222.

(31.) In re Winship, 397 US 358 (1970); Breed v. Jones, 421 US 519 (1975).

(32.) McKeiver v. Pennsylvania, 403 US 528 (1971).

(33.) McKeiver v. Pennsylvania, 403 US 528, 545 (1971).

(34.) Donald Horowitz, The Courts and Social Policy (Washington, DC: The Brookings Institution, 1977).

(35.) Barry C. Feld, Bad Kids and Defend Children: A Blueprint for Effective Juvenile Defender Services (Washington, DC: National Juvenile Defender Center, 2016).

(36.) Christopher P. Manfredi, The Supreme Court and Juvenile Justice (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1998), 159.

(37.) Lee Teitelbaum, “Status Offenses and Status Offenders,” in A Century of Juvenile Justice, eds. Margaret K. Rosenheim, Franklin E. Zimring, David S. Tanenhaus, and Bernardine Dohrn (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002), 158–176.

(38.) Kimberly Kempf-Leonard, “The Conundrum of Girls and Juvenile Justice Processing,” in The Oxford Handbook of Juvenile Crime and Juvenile Justice, eds. Barry C. Feld and Donna M. Bishop (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012), 485–525.

(39.) Jeffrey Fagan and Franklin E. Zimring, eds., The Changing Borders of Juvenile Justice: Transfer of Adolescents to the Criminal Court (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000).

(40.) Juvenile Offenders and Victims: A National Report (Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office, 1995), 86–87.

(41.) Franklin E. Zimring, American Juvenile Justice (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005), ch. 4.

(42.) John J. DiLulio Jr., “The Coming of the Super-predators,” Weekly Standard, November 27, 1995.

(43.) Franklin E. Zimring, “The Power Politics of Juvenile Court Transfer in the 1990s,” in Choosing the Future for American Juvenile Justice, eds. Franklin E. Zimring and David S. Tanenhaus (New York: New York University Press, 2014), 37–51.

(44.) Terry A. Maroney, “The Once and Future Juvenile Brain,” in Choosing the Future for American Juvenile Justice, eds. Franklin E. Zimring and David S. Tanenhaus (New York: New York University Press, 2014), 189–2015.

(45.) Darnell F. Hawkins and Kimberly Kempf-Lenoard, eds., Our Children, Their Children: Confronting Racial and Ethnic Differences in American Juvenile Justice (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005).

(46.) Steinberg and Scott, Rethinking Juvenile Justice.

(47.) Michael Tonry, “Crime and Human Rights—How Political Paranoia, Protestant Fundamentalism, and Constitutional Obsolescence Combined to Devastate Black America: The American Society of Criminology 2007 Presidential Address,” Criminology 46 (2008): 3.

(48.) James Q. Whitman, Harsh Justice: Criminal Punishment and the Widening Divide between America and Europe (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003).

(49.) Franklin E. Zimring, “American Youth Violence: A Cautionary Tale,” in Choosing the Future for American Juvenile Justice, eds. Franklin E. Zimring and David S. Tanenhaus (New York: New York University Press, 2014), 7–36.

(50.) See, e.g., Lawrence Steinberg and Elizabeth S. Scott, Rethinking Juvenile Justice (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2010).

(51.) Roper v. Simmons, 543 US 551 (2005).

(52.) Graham v. Florida, 560 US 48 (2010).

(53.) Miller v. Alabama, 567 US (2012).

(54.) Ashley Nellis, A Return to Justice: Rethinking Our Approach to Juveniles in the System (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2016), 83.

(55.) Zimring and Tanenhaus, Choosing the Future for American Juvenile Justice.

(56.) Jane Addams, My Friend, Julia Lathrop (New York: Macmillan, 1935), 137.

(57.) Herbert Lou, Juvenile Courts in the United States (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1927), 220.

(58.) See, e.g., the expanded fortieth-anniversary edition of Anthony Platt, The Child Savers: The Invention of Delinquency, with an introduction by Miroslava Chávez-García (Rutgers University Press, 2009).

(59.) Zimring and Tanenhaus, Choosing the Future for American Juvenile Justice, chs. 1 and 10.

(60.) Elizabeth Hinton, From the War on Poverty to the War on Crime (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2016), ch. 6.

(61.) Addie Rolnick, “Untangling the Web: Juvenile Justice in Indian Country,” 19 N.Y.U. J. Legis. & Pub. Pol’y 49 (2016).

(62.) See, e.g., Heather Ellis, ed., Juvenile Delinquency and the Limits of Western Influence, 1850 to 2000 (London: Palgrave MacMillan, 2014); Franklin E. Zimring, Máximo Langer, and David S. Tanenhaus, eds., Juvenile Justice in Global Perspective (New York: New York Univeresity Press, 2015); and William S. Bush and David S. Tanenhaus, eds., Ages of Anxiety: Historical and Transnational Perspectives on Juvenile Justice (New York: New York University Press, July 2018).

(63.) See, e.g., Elizabeth S. Scott, “Miller v. Alabama and the (Past and) Future of Juvenile Crime Regulation,” Law and Inequality 31 (2012–2013): 535–558.

(64.) See, e.g., Edward Humes, No Matter How Loud I Shout: A Year in the Life of the Juvenile Court (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1996).

(65.) See e.g., Helen Jeter, The Chicago Juvenile Court (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1922).

(66.) See, e.g., Howard Snyder and Melissa Sickmund, Juvenile Offenders and Juvenile Victims: 1999 National Report (Washington, DC: US Department of Justice, 1999).

(67.) See, e.g., In re Gault, 1 US 387 (1967).

(69.) In Transforming Juvenile: Reform Ideals and Institutional Realities, 1825–1920 (DeKalb: Northern Illinois Press, 2005), Steven Schlossman discusses how social historians have used juvenile court case files.

(70.) These collections include the papers of the prominent Denver Juvenile Court Judge Benjamin B. Lindsey and the records of Illinois’s Juvenile Protective Association.

(71.) See, e.g., Tanenhaus, Juvenile Justice in the Making, ch. 4.

(72.) See, e.g., James Bennett, Oral History and Delinquency: The Rhetoric of Criminology (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988).

(73.) See, e.g., James Gilbert, A Cycle of Outage: America’s Reaction to the Juvenile Delinquent in 1950s (New York: Oxford University Press, 1988).

(74.) See, e.g., Franklin E. Zimring, Gordon G. Hawkins, and Sam Kamin, Punishment and Democracy: Three Strikes and You’re Out in California (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003).

(75.) See, e.g., Twentieth Century Fund, Confronting Youth Crime: Sentencing Policy Toward Young Offenders (New York: Holmes and Meier, 1978).