Bad Kids: Race and the Transformation of the Juvenile Court

Bad Kids: Race and the Transformation of the Juvenile Court

Bad Kids: Race and the Transformation of the Juvenile Court

Bad Kids: Race and the Transformation of the Juvenile Court

Synopsis

Written by a leading scholar of juvenile justice, this book examines the social and legal changes that have transformed the juvenile court in the last three decades from a nominally rehabilitative welfare agency into a scaled-down criminal court for young offenders. It explores the complex relationship between race and youth crime to explain both the Supreme Court decisions to provide delinquents with procedural justice and the more recent political impetus to "get tough" on young offenders. This provocative book will be necessary reading for criminal and juvenile justice scholars, sociologists, legislators, and juvenile justice personnel.

Excerpt

Within the past three decades, judicial decisions, legislative amendments, and administrative changes have transformed the juvenile court from a nominally rehabilitative social welfare agency into a scaled-down second-class criminal court for young people. Politicians and the public have repudiated the court's original rehabilitative premises and endorsed punishment of young offenders. Judicial opinions and statutory changes have rejected procedural informality and incorporated imperfectly many of the safeguards of criminal courts. These substantive and procedural reforms have converted the historical ideal of the juvenile court as a welfare agency into a quasi-penal system that provides young offenders with neither therapy nor justice.

The Progressive reformers who created the juvenile court conceived of it as an informal welfare system in which judges made dispositions in the "best interests" of the child, and the state functioned as parens patriae, as a surrogate parent. In 1967 the Supreme Court in In re Gault granted juveniles some constitutional procedural rights in delinquency hearings and provided the impetus to modify juvenile courts' procedures, jurisdiction, and purposes (387 U.S. 1[1967]). The ensuing procedural and substantive convergence between juvenile and criminal courts eliminated virtually all the conceptual and operational differences in strategies of social control for youths and adults. Even proponents reluctantly acknowledge that juvenile courts often fail either to "save" children or to reduce youth crime. In short, the contemporary juvenile . . .

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