Community-Based Responses to Justice-Involved Young Adults
Date:  02-23-2017

Good intentions to help children of the 1800’s thrive resulted in the creation of the juvenile court and its consequences
From the report Community-Based Responses to Justice-Involved Young Adults:

Introduction and History In the late 1800s, the Progressive movement mounted a campaign on behalf of America’s children. Child labor laws, kindergartens and compulsory schooling were proposed to draw a new generation of immigrants into American society and open social opportunities to their children. This movement — to expand opportunity for disadvantaged youth and integrate them into the mainstream of social life — also spawned the juvenile court.

The juvenile court of the early 20th century represented a clear alternative to adult criminal justice. The new court relaxed the adversarial posture of court procedure, was built on a jurisprudence of diminished capacity and rehabilitation, provided individualized case management, guarded youthful lawbreakers’ confidentiality, and relied overwhelmingly on community-based supervision instead of the penitentiary. The early juvenile court recognized that childhood was a distinct stage of life for which different procedures and solutions were needed. The objective of the court was unapologetically progressive: to help build citizenship and social membership, and promote opportunity for a disadvantaged population still at the starting gate of the life course. These reformers set the age jurisdiction of these juvenile courts at around 18, based on the mores of the time. However, over a century’s worth of experience, along with more recent research on adolescent brain development, now enables us to better understand the adolescent maturation process and demonstrates the need to revisit this strict adherence to an outmoded understanding of maturity to adulthood. This new research shows that the brain and its capacity for mature decision-making continue to evolve well past the teenage years. It also shows that brain development is disrupted and slowed for those exposed to trauma in childhood. Continue reading