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The US Juvenile Justice System

Involvement of Children and Adolescents in Justice System during the First Half of the 20th Century

The juvenile justice system was developed to specifically address the legal and judicial matters associated with minors below 18 years. It was first established in Chicago, Illinois, in 1899 to oversee cases related to juvenile delinquency (Agyepong, 2018). In the first half of the 20th century, there were several cases associated with youthful offenders which traversed through various ethnic children and adolescents. Youths from different racial backgrounds got involved with the justice system, social programs, and government entities in multiple ways.

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Minority children and adolescents – Hispanics, black, and other non-white youths – became involved with the juvenile system because of committing delinquent acts, for instance, assault or robbery. Their involvement with the justice system was also linked to status offenses. Examples of status crimes include running away from home due to poverty, family neglect, or even drug abuse and curfew violations (Ruoyo, 2020). These acts forced the government to enroll them in social programs. As for their white counterparts, most of them got involved with government entities, juvenile systems, and social programs following the execution of similar criminal acts like drug-related crimes or offenses against public order. They also took part in criminal acts such as truancy, i.e., intentionally wanting to stay away from school without a valid reason. For these reasons, many of the youths have become involved with the juvenile justice system.

Results of Adolescents’ Involvements and the Eventual Juvenile Justice System

The involvement of the ethnic minorities’ children and adolescents in the above programs helped them become better people since many were rehabilitated and integrated back into the community. It also played a crucial role in facilitating the maintenance of public order and safety, as well as enhancing the development and acquisition of new skills by the youths who went through the program. According to Leukefeld et al. (2017), the delinquents were trained on new techniques and proficiencies, which could help them become better people. Youths’ involvement in the justice system also resulted in most of them being diverted from going through the criminal system, and instead, they were taken through rehabilitation. The juvenile justice system became more of police-related engagements than referral by agents such as parents, teachers, and even neighbors (Leukefeld et al., 2017). Probation staff has become much more involved in official matters rather than in some unofficial issues. This straightened the system and made clear how to deal with various ethnic children and adolescents.

Choices Made by Government-Centered Entities

Government and juvenile-centered entities had to come up with choices specific to a particular group of juveniles. They developed counseling programs to aid children and adolescents who had committed minor offenses like truancy or running away from home. This approach was perceived as a strategy to help them open up as to why they committed the crime (Powell, 2020). Laws were also enacted to help eradicate immoral and criminal actions among this population. Furthermore, the government also developed juvenile prisons that would cater to teenage offenders who had committed serious crimes, such as murder or burglary. These penitentiaries would separate them from others who had committed less serious offenses.

Moral panics basically arose due to the fear of losing moral values upheld by society following the rapid evolution of technology, increased civilization, and modernization. According to Powell (2020), moral panic relates to the increased feeling of fear laid out among individuals that a particular form of evil threatens society’s wellbeing; it is a process used to trigger social concern over a specific problem. Politicians used moral panic in justifying legislation that enabled the creation of these special prisons for juvenile offenders, which consequently played a crucial role in separating serious criminals from petty offenders.

Involvement of the Children and Adolescents in the Juvenile System in the 21st Century

Although a lot has changed in the 21st century the factors that triggered juveniles’ collusion with the system during the 20th century are still prevalent. The minority groups – Hispanics, blacks, Asian-pacific islanders – are currently involved with the system due to criminal acts, such as selling burglary, drug abuse, assault, and even murder. Most of these actions are deemed essential since most of them face family neglect and poverty, which still affects a significant percentage of this population in the 21st century as was in the 20th. Neighborhood influence also plays a crucial role in pushing most of these minority kids into committing criminal offenses (Loyd et al., 2019). Furthermore, some of them are still involved with the justice system due to status offenses like underage liquor law violations, truancy, and running away from home.

The current involvement of Caucasian youths with the justice system may be attributed to criminal offenses such as burglary, murder, drug abuse, as well as acts of selling drugs. Truancy and running away from home are also some of the status offenses that trigger their collision with the juvenile justice system (Lloyd, 2019). Most of them do this due to peer pressure and the feeling of wanting to belong to a particular group. For teenagers and children of today, it is evident that the wrongful acts that may cause their connivance with the juvenile justice system have broadened. Some of these activities include underage driving and drinking, public disorder, as well as brutal acts of burglary and murder, (Loyd et al. 2019). Therefore, it is the responsibility of these kids to obey the set of laws and rules established by the government to avoid penalties or police arrests and prosecution.

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Agyepong, T. E. (2018). The Criminalization of black children: Race, gender, and delinquency in Chicago’s juvenile justice system, 1899-1945. UNC Press Books.

Leukefeld, C. G., Cawood, M., Wiley, T., Robertson, A. A., Fisher, J. H., Arrigona, N., & Roysden, J. (2016). The benefits of community and juvenile justice involvement in organizational research. Journal of Juvenile Justice, 6(1), 112-124.

Loyd, A. B., Hotton, A. L., Walden, A. L., Kendall, A. D., Emerson, E., & Donenberg, G. R. (2019). Associations of ethnic/racial discrimination with internalizing symptoms and externalizing behaviors among juvenile justice-involved youth of color. Journal of Adolescence, 75, 138-150. Web.

Powell, E. (2020). The evolution of the juvenile court: Race, politics, and the criminalizing of juvenile justice. NYU Press.

Ruoyu, L. I. (2020). On family causes in juvenile delinquency. Studies in Literature and Language, 21(1), 62-65.

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