The American juvenile justice system was designed over 100 years ago to reform kids who were found guilty of minor crimes such as petty theft and truancy. Today, the system is becoming overwhelmed by crimes of violence by children. Stealing and skipping school have been replaced by violent crimes, such as rape and murder. The juvenile justice system was never built to deal with these kinds of problems with children. The juvenile justice system of the past sought to rehabilitate youthful offenders by taking a protective stance over juvenile delinquents. However, the "protect instead of punish" ideology of yesterday, better dealt with yesterday\'s crimes.
Although juvenile delinquency is decreasing, there is still a need to address some issues?..how do we deal with juveniles committing crimes? Incarceration or rehabilitation? Today as juvenile crime has become more common and violent, the juvenile justice system has been forced to make necessary changes. Should the justice system become a ground of harsher punishment, and limit it\'s rehabilitative efforts only to those who deem themselves worthy of re-entry into today\'s society? In American society, punishment rather than rehabilitation has shown to be more favored for juveniles who commit crimes. Should this thought process change? The justice system must begin looking at ways to emphasize rehabilitation and prevention programs for juvenile offenders, with an emphasis on prevention programs. But how did we as a society come to develop a separate juvenile justice system?.and why. Looking at the history of the juvenile justice system, may provide an insight as to where we are headed in the future.
A grasp of the current conflict surrounding the responsibility and direction of the juvenile justice system becomes more obtainable when one takes into account how the system has progressed since its inception. The juvenile justice system was created in the late 1800s to reform U.S. policies regarding youth offenders. Since that time, a number of reforms - aimed at both protecting the "due process of law" rights of youth, and creating an aversion toward jail among the young - have made the juvenile justice system more comparable to the adult system, a shift from the United State\'s original intent. The first juvenile courts were established in 1899, prior to that development, delinquent juveniles were processed through the adult justice system, which gave much harsher penalties. The challenges of the n juvenile courts were to examine, analyze and recommend treatment for offenders, not to deliver judgment, fault or fix responsibility. The courts ran under the policy of ?parens patriae? that intended that the state would step in an act as a parent in the behalf of a disobedient juvenile. These actions were informal and a juvenile court judge had a vast sum of discretion in the nature of juvenile cases. The court?s attitude was of shielding youth, juvenile offender?s position was often in reformatories or instruction schools that were intended to keep them away from the terrible influences of society and encourage self-control through accurate structures and a very unsympathetic discipline. The conditions in these reformatories and schools were frequently unsafe and unhealthy. They were considered warehouses for delinquent and deserted children held for unclear periods. Although not perfect in its initial inception, the idea of rehabilitation not incarceration was the favored direction. The issue now is how to avoid the initial criminal intent, no matter how minor. How do we initially deter a child from deviant behavior?
The most effective way to prevent juvenile delinquency has indisputably been to assist children and their families early on. Numerous state programs attempt early intervention, and federal funding for community initiatives has allowed independent groups to tackle the problem in new ways. Model programs have assisted families and children by providing them with information. Some programs inform parents on how to raise healthy children; some teach children about the effects of drugs, gangs, sex, and weapons; and others aim to express to youth the innate worth they and all others have. All of these programs provide youths with the awareness that their actions have consequences. This is particularly important in an era where youth are barraged with sexual and violent images. First and foremost is education. Educational programs have the underlying intent of encouraging hope and opening up opportunities for young people. Education is most important because its goal is prevention rather than rehabilitation. Children must learn that they are accountable for their actions.