Najja A. Wells
California State University, Dominguez Hills
Najja A. Wells, Department of Public Administration, California State University
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Najja A. Wells,
Department of Public Administration, California State University, Dominguez Hills
1000 E. Victoria Street, Carson, CA 90747 (310)243-3696
America's youth are faced with an ever-changing set of problems and barriers to successful lives. As a result, we are constantly met with the task of developing enlightened policies and programs to address the needs and risks of those youth that enter our juvenile justice system. The policies we create must be based on facts, not fears or negative assumptions.
This document will take a look at the current and former statistics of the juvenile justice system in California and the nation in the years ranging from 1995 until present time. Statistics gathered from an array of sources provide insight of the issues of the juvenile system including disparities in racial representation, trends in criminal behavior of juvenile offenders, methods of entrance into the system, gender and age variations in crimes committed, as well as statistics on the demographic, sociological, and economic factors that are indirectly or directly related to juvenile victimization and crime. Together, these statistics dispel common perceptions of the increase in the rate and proportion of young juveniles entering the system, and provide an informed view of the actualities of the juvenile crime rate and juvenile justice system.
The juvenile justice system was created in the late 1800s to reform U.S. policies regarding youth offenders. “The juvenile court was founded at the turn of this century as a specialized institution for dealing with dependent, neglected, and delinquent minors. Its guiding principle was parens patrie, a medieval English doctrine that allowed the Crown to supplant natural family relations whenever a child’s welfare was at stake—in other words, to become a substitute parent.” (Greenwood, Lipson, Abrahamse, & Zimring, 1983).Since that time, a number of reforms - aimed at both protecting the "due process of law" rights of youth, and creating an aversion toward jail among the young - have made the juvenile justice system more comparable to the adult system, a shift from the United State's original intent.
The juvenile justice system along with other numerous U.S. programs and systems has undergone many periods of change and reform. The reform and social change of the juvenile justice system begun with the Progressive Era reforms and continued with the “In re Gault” Supreme Court decision of 1967, the Juvenile Delinquency and Prevention and Control Act of 1968, the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Control Act of 1974, and the modern “Get Tough on Crime” legislation. The most prominent and altering reform phase was in 1974. By 1974, the United States had developed a strong momentum toward preventing juvenile delinquency, deinstitutionalizing youth already in the system, and keeping juvenile offenders separate from adult offenders. The Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act of 1974 created the following entities: The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), The Runaway Youth Program, and The National Institute for Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (NIJJDP). (History of America’s, 2008) The act of 1974 also offered grants to encourage states to develop community-based programs as alternatives to institutionalization. Law...