An important milestone in the history of juvenile delinquency occurred in 1974 with the passage of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act. This act was the most sweeping change in juvenile justice since the founding of the juvenile court. There were five major points of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act. First, it mandated the decriminalization of status offenders so that they were not considered delinquent. Second, it mandated the deinstitutionalization of juvenile corrections so that only the most severe juvenile delinquents would be eligible for confinement. In addition, the act mandated that status offenders should not be institutionalized and that juveniles in adult jails and prisons should be separated by sight and sound from adults. Third, it broadened use of diversion as an alternative to formal processing in juvenile court. Fourth, it continued application of due process constitutional rights to juveniles. Fifth, it created the federal Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), which funded research to evaluate juvenile justice programs and disseminated research findings on the juvenile justice system.
It is conventional wisdom within criminology to lament the increasing toughness or punitive stance that society takes toward juvenile delinquents, primarily through the process of transfer to criminal court. But it should be noted that the last 40 years of juvenile justice reflect a profound commitment to due process and the legal rights of adolescents, the abolishment of the juvenile death penalty, and a general hands-off policy stance toward status and low-level delinquents. Indeed, the juvenile justice system and particularly juvenile corrections have noted the diversity of the juvenile delinquent population and have focused resources disproportionately toward the most serious youths.
As juvenile courts across the United States continued in operation, two concerns emerged that would later motivate additional reforms. First, the informality of juvenile proceedings was seen as good in that justice could be tailored to the needs of individual youth. However, the informality also invited disparate treatment of offenders. The second and related point was that the juvenile court needed to become more formalized to ensure due process rights of delinquents that were comparable to the due process rights of adults in the criminal courts. These rights were established in a series of landmark cases during the 1960s and early 1970s.
Over time, the puritanical approach to defining, correcting, and punishing juvenile delinquency came under attack. Not only had these severe forms of juvenile justice failed to control juvenile delinquency, but also they were portrayed as primitive and brutal. In 1825, a progressive social movement known as the Child Savers changed the course of the response to juvenile delinquency and made corrections a primary part of it. Rather than framing juvenile delinquency as an issue of sin and morality, the Child Savers attributed it to environmental factors, such as poverty, immigration, poor parenting, and urban environments. Based on the doctrine of parens patriae, which means the state is the ultimate guardian of children, the Child Savers sought to remove children from the adverse environments that they felt contributed to children’s delinquency.
1018 Words Essay on Juvenile Delinquency
Another curious response to juvenile delinquency during this era was the use of transport. For example, between the 1850s and the Great Depression, approximately 250,000 abandoned children from New York were placed on orphan trains and relocated to locations in the West where they were adopted by Christian farm families. The process of finding new homes for the children was haphazard. At town meetings across the country, farming families took their pick of the orphan train riders. Children who were not selected got back on board the train and continued to the next town. The children who were selected and those who adopted them had one year to decide whether they would stay together. If either decided against it, the child would be returned, boarded on the next train out of town, and offered to another family.
Social Perspectives on Juvenile Delinquency Essay …
Sociological theories of juvenile delinquency point to societal factors and social processes that in turn affect human behavior. Unlike other explanations, sociology explains people’s behavior using characteristics beyond the individual. Mostly, sociological theories assert that certain negative aspects of neighborhoods and society in general serve as structural inducements for young people to resort to juvenile delinquency. In this way, sociological theories tend to ignore or deny individual-level psychological differences that might partially explain who engages in delinquency.
Page 2 Social Perspectives on Juvenile Delinquency Essay
One of the most prominent sociological theories is the social disorganization theory developed by Clifford Shaw and Henry McKay (1942), who suggested that juvenile delinquency was caused by the neighborhood in which a person lived. Instead of focusing on individual traits, Shaw and McKay studied the impact of the kinds of places, such as neighborhoods, that created conditions favorable to delinquency. They discovered that delinquency rates declined the farther one moved from the center of the city. They reached this conclusion after dividing Chicago into five concentric circles or zones. At the center was the Loop, the downtown business district where property values were highest (Zone I). Beyond the Loop was the zone of transition (Zone II) containing an inner ring of factories and an outer ring that included places of vice, such as gambling, prostitution, and the like. Zones III and IV were suburban residential areas, and Zone V extended beyond the suburbs. Delinquency rates were highest in the first two zones and declined steadily as one moved farther away from the city center.