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African-American Youth in The Juvenile Justice System

African-American Youth in The Juvenile Justice System

eceive the death

eceive the death penalty. Early debates questioned whether there should be a separate legal system for punishing juveniles, or if juveniles should be sentenced in the same manner as adults. With the changing demographic, social, and economic context of the 19th century resulting largely from industrialization, "the social construction of childhood...as a period of dependency and exclusion from the adult world" was institutionalized. This century saw the opening of the first programs targeting juvenile delinquency. Barry Krisberg and James F. Austin note that the first ever institution dedicated to juvenile delinquency was the New York House of Refuge in 1825. Other programs, described by Finley, included: "houses of refuge", which emphasized moral rehabilitation; "reform schools", which had widespread reputations for mistreatment of the children living there; and "child saving organizations", social charity agencies dedicated to reforming poor and delinquent children. These 'child-saving efforts' were early attempts at differentiating between delinquents and abandoned youth. Prior to this ideological shift, the application of parens patrea was restricted to protecting the interests of children, deciding guardianship and commitment of the mentally ill. In the 1839 landmark case Ex parte Crouse, the court allowed use of parens patrea to detain young people for non-criminal acts in the name of rehabilitation. Since these decisions were carried out "in the best interest of the child," the due process protections afforded adult criminals were not extended to juveniles. Early 1900s The nation's first juvenile court was formed in Illinois in 1899 and provided a legal distinction between juvenile abandonment and crime. The law that established the court, the Illinois Juvenile Court Law of 1899, was created largely because of the advocacy of women such as Jane Addams, Louise DeKoven Bowen, Lucy Flower and Julia Lathrop, who were members of the influential Chicago Woman's Club. The Chicago court opened on July 1, 1899 with Judge Tuthill presiding, along with several members of the Chicago Woman's Club who acted as advisors about the juvenile offender's backgrounds. Establishing a juvenile court helped reframe cultural and legal interpretations of "the best interests of the child." "The underlying assumption of the original juvenile system, and one that continues to prevail, was that juveniles were generally more amenable to rehabilitation than adult criminals. This new application of parens patrea and the development of a separate juvenile court formed the foundation for the modern juvenile justice system. 1960s to 1980s Debate about morality and effectiveness surrounded juvenile courts until the 1950s. The 1960s through the 1980s saw a rise in attention to and speculation about juvenile delinquency, as well as concern about the court system as a social issue. This era was characterized by distinctly harsh punishments for youths. There was also a new focus on providing minors with due process and legal counsel in court. Criticism in this era Page 18 of 114

focused on racial discrimination, gender disparities, and discrimination towards children with mental health problems or learning disabilities. While still recommending harsher punishments for serious crimes, "community-based programs, diversion, and deinstitutionalization became the banners of juvenile justice policy in the 1970's". However, these alternative approaches were short lived. The rising crime rates of the 1960s and media misrepresentation of this crime throughout the 1970s and 80s, paved the way for Reagan's War on Drugs and subsequent "tough-on-crime" policies. Heightened fears of a 'youth problem' "revealed white, middle- and upper-class anxieties about growing social unrest and the potential volatility stemming from social and economic inequality". Public perception of juvenile deviance was such that at the 1999 Juvenile Justice Hearings, Bill McCollum claimed "simply and sadly put: Today in America no population poses a larger threat to public safety than juvenile offenders". In the late 1980s, the United States experienced a large increase in crime, and juvenile crime was brought into public view (Juvenile delinquency in the United States). Americans feared a "juvenile super-predator", and this fear was met by the government with harsher policies for juvenile crime. 1990s to Present Day In the 1990s, juvenile crime – especially violent crime – decreased, although policies remained the same. Schools and politicians adopted zero tolerance policies with regard to crime, and argued that rehabilitative approaches were less effective than strict Page 19 of 114

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