Soc 209: Juvenile Delinquency
Burning Down the House
The “birth” of juvenile prisons began at the end of the nineteenth century. The idea of separating the youth and adults was to rehabilitate young offenders not punish. This began with the New York House of Refuge in 1825. At this time most of the youth that were put into the “homes” were generally poor immigrants. Due to the mass amount of immigrants there was a concentration of poverty in cities. Also the development of “parens patriae”, which was the government who was legal protector of the juvenile delinquent assumes role of “father.” Not too long after there were a dozen of juvenile institutions that were state supported commonly called reform schools, training centers, reformatories, or boys schools. At this time it was common for youth (generally poor immigrants) to get incarcerated without being arrested (pg. 40)
When the reform schools first began it was meant to educate children and give them another chance to learn a trade and better themselves. Although it was not cheap to run and maintain these facilities but the people in charge found a solution, put the children to work. The boys who were more out of hand would get up at dawn to go to school thirty to sixty minutes then report to work to make chair frames, sieves, and rat traps. This would create a large enough cash flow to run the institutions (pg. 41). Reform schools claimed to not be prisons but homelike although they were much more brutal and disorderly (pg. 45). Bernardine Dohrn described in the Illinois training schools with “the repressed and joyless atmosphere, the rule of silence during meals, and exhausted staff who worked twenty-four hours a day” and the youth did not get any actual training (pg. 50). Children that were in “prison” had little to no choice to anything they did. They had to obey their superiors.
Juvenile prisons have not changed a lot over time. They claim they have changed similarly to when they first started. The juvenile prisons are there to “help not discipline” the youth. Although the idea of a separate system for youth and adults was to ultimately separate juveniles and adults, most state institutions for juveniles are similar to the adult correctional institutions (pg. 22). Similar to reform schools juvenile facilities still continue routines for inmates leave cells, shower, go eat, school room, dayroom, yard, and cell again. The youth inmates are told what to do by bells, sound of swinging doors, or light out (pg. 24). Still continuing to this day “guards” still imply fear into the juveniles, intimidate them, sexual assault, and physically assaulting youth inmates. Youth prisoners are stripped of self respect and called names to dehumanize them.
The juvenile prison have changed over time in some ways such as in order to be sentenced to a juvenile facility you have go through a trial, and even then you can be tried as an adult if found necessary. Also all trials for juveniles are not open to the public and names can’t be publically stated. Also most juvenile facilities are more like adult prisons as I previously stated before. When they first began to separate youth offenders and adult offenders they were more like homes with strict prison like rules.
2. The term super-predator was used to describe children who commit a huge number of offenses. The hype of the media played a large role leading the general public into thinking there was a large number a violent youths roaming the streets. The media displayed “more than half of local news stories about youth focused on violence” even though studies have shown that 80 percent of our nations adults are committing crimes. Many people believed a “super predator” was a very racial term in context (pg. 74). Because of this idea the media developed about a super predator, incarceration rates increased; more youths were sentenced to adult prisons and jails (pg. 75). As the...
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