The problem of how to deal with juvenile offenders constitutes one of our countries biggest challenges. There were 13.9 million reported offenses in 1995 according to the FBI's uniform crime report. That same year over three million juveniles were arrested, 800,000 of those arrests were index crimes, which are crimes of a serious nature. In 1995 there were 69million juveniles. It is predicted that by the year 2010 the juvenile population will reach 74 million (Bureau of the Census 1995). The increase in the juvenile arrest rate during the last ten years is expected to continue at a steady increase until something can be done to reduce the offending rates. The statistics are staggering. The rate for juvenile homicide more than doubled from 1985-1992 (Blumstein, 1995). In this paper I will discuss the juvenile justice system from the first establishment of juvenile court in 1899, to the current responses of the juvenile justice system in reducing the amount of offenders. Finally I will address some alternative methods to the current policies regarding the juvenile justice system beginning with arrest through rehabilitation.
The first juvenile court in the United States was established in Cook County, Illinois in 1899. Delinquent juveniles were dealt harsh punishments from the adult courts before that development. Every state was with a separate juvenile court by 1945. The original intent was to focus on offenders and not offenses, rehabilitating and protecting the youth was the courts philosophy. Placing juvenile offenders in reformatories , training schools, and institutions was thought to support the theory of rehabilitation, contrary to the nice thought, these places were dangerous and unhealthy and believed to have done more harm than good. During the 1940's and 1950's reformers worked hard to improve the conditions found in most juvenile institutions. Probation camps emerged providing a structured setting for juveniles as an alternative to incarceration. Extensive use of probation was also another alternative to incarceration. The vast majority were coming to question the ability of the juvenile courts system in succeeding, or even making visible or tangible progress in the rehabilitation process. In 1967, the recommendation that alternatives to the incarceration of juveniles be developed. The Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act passed in 1974 provided funding to communities from federal grants that encouraged these alternatives to incarceration, creating more foster care, group homes and formal diversion programs. During the 1970's, supervision and electronic monitoring were also introduced. By the 1980's the public perceived serious juvenile crime increasing and the system was failing due to its lenient attitude in the juvenile courts. Laws were passed making the 1980's a transitional period that led the juvenile justice system away from its original philosophy of rehabilitation, focusing now on punishment and the safety of the public. Juvenile crime had increased , faith in treatment was on a downward spiral, the courts were becoming more and more inept to realistically address and remedy social ills and political ideology rushing towards conservative trends caused a distinct change in the policies surrounding juvenile criminals. By the 1990's legislation enacted by many states put juvenile offenders that were violent, serious, or repeat offenders accountable for their actions. Five areas of change concentrated on by state legislature include: 1. Sentencing 2. Transfer provisions 3. Confidentiality 4. Victims rights 5. Correctional programming. As a result of the many changes made by legislation, the building of more secure facilities and the development of more adequate solutions for rehabilitation.
The real problem of our juvenile justice system is the manor in which it address' our nations troubled youth. The institutions that we have currently in...
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