4 Apr 2022


Juvenile Justice History

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Juvenile justice is the area of the criminal law that is mainly related to persons who are not old enough to be held accountable for their unlawful actions (Hay, 2006). Most countries and states have set the age limit for criminal responsibility as eighteen years old. The juvenile aspect of the law is usually by the state laws and most countries like the United States have enacted the juvenile code (Zehr, 2015). Since the year the 1990s, there has been a drastic fall in the rate of youth crimes across the globe. These could mainly be because of the juvenile justice systems which mostly became applicable in the 1980s and 1990s. Since then there has been a huge implementation of the juvenile justice system (Zehr, 2015). 

The different periods that have been witnessed in the juvenile justice practice are as follows:

House of Refuge

During the early 1990s, the young people who were implicated in criminal acts faced judges and were jailed together with other criminals without considering age limits. The act faced an opposing force from several leaders like Thomas Eddy and John Griscom who formed a society which aimed to see the prevention of jailing the children with the adults. In the year 1825, the New York House of Refuge was formulated as a result of their continued efforts. That came to be the juvenile justice system. The initial aim was to accommodate the poor kids from the streets who were most of the time confused for criminals (Zehr, 2015). The house was located in urban areas where most of the vulnerable children lived so that more could be reached and helped.

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Industrial Schools

In the mid-1990s, the House of Refuge raised critical issues of prisons having many people, poor living conditions and violating even the most basic human rights. In the same period, the government made it a must for all the citizens to go to school. Through that, the House of Refuge was able to adopt and employ the application of education and offered industrial training for the children who were in the institution. That has been the case since then up to today, in that those youths who commit crimes are held and made to undergo training which makes them a better people once they get out (Hay, 2006).

Juvenile Courts

In the 19960s the juvenile courts judged the persons under the age of 18 years, but those who were considered to have committed a crime like murder were transferred and subjected to the adult criminal system. In 1967, the Supreme Court made it clear and gave direction that all the juveniles be allowed to defend themselves before they are prosecuted. The decision by Justice Abe made it clear that the youth had a right to be treated fairly as per the law. He pointed out the following rights in regard to the minors: a right of the youth to receive the notice of the charges, a right to have or to obtain any necessary legal counsel and the right to appeal as any other person. The youths were also granted the right of accessing the transcripts of all the proceedings (Zehr, 2015).

The Juvenile Delinquency Prevention and Control Act

The act was passed by the congress in the year 1968, the aim being to discourage and lower juvenile delinquency at the communal level through the use of educative programs. The state was to fund the programs so as to make it a success (Hay, 2006). This led to the Juvenile Delinquency Prevention and Control act of 1974.

The San Francisco industrial school

The school was established in the year 1858, and it was one of the best reform schools during that period. However, the school faced a lot of scandals including the violation of human rights and poor management issues which led to its closure in 1891 (Hay, 2006). That made several people view the process as a failed system, and that became clear when the city’s judiciary termed the whole system as a failure.


In all the above the evolution of juvenile court system was an influential period as most of the people were able to understand and acknowledge the importance of the court as an institution. The juvenile courts now made it possible for all the youths to be prosecuted fairly. During that period, the necessary laws were made to ensure the youths faced a fair trial as any other person. 


Hay, C. (2006). Constructivist institutionalism. The Oxford Handbook of Political Institutions. DOI: 10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199548460.003.0004

Zehr, H. (2015). The little book of restorative justice: revised and updated . New York: Skyhorse Publishing, Inc.

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StudyBounty. (2023, September 15). Juvenile Justice History.


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