Juvenile laws
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Juvenile Delinquency: Juvenile Laws

History of juvenile laws

  • Juvenile laws have been established in the United States of America since 1899 when the first juvenile court was established in Chicago, Illinois.
  • In 1903 another juvenile court was established in Denver by Judge Ben Lindsay. The reason behind the establishment of separate justice system for the young people was their immaturity as compared to adults. Judge Ben Lindsay was a great opponent of legal support for juvenile criminals.
  • Over the years it was established that juvenile offenders should be provided rehabilitation rather than punishing them severely. The juvenile justice system changed a lot after 1960. New juvenile laws were introduced.
  • During the end of the last century an increase in juvenile crimes were seen and the government created a committee to study and propose a plan for juvenile justice and to develop juvenile laws.
  • Juvenile offenders are punished to life time prison for crimes as serious as murder. In recent years the punishment for juvenile offenders has become less severe for minor crimes.
  • New amendments are included in the juvenile justice as the new research about juvenile crimes develops.
  • In recent years juvenile treatment, community programs, and juvenile reforms have been developed by the government as well as non-government organizations.
  • The purpose of the juvenile laws are to safeguard the juveniles from committing more crimes, to establish that less harsh punishments are given to the young adults, and to prevent juvenile delinquency.  The aim is to develop certain laws that can help juvenile offenders refrain form committing crime again. There is considerable research underway to see how juvenile crimes can be prevented in the first place.

Recent Development in juvenile justice

The Justice Department in US has Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. Government provide funds for research in the field of delinquency prevention and OJJDP develops new programs for combating juvenile delinquency. Research is conducted on state level to know the statistics of juvenile crimes: prevalence, demographics of the juvenile offenders, type of crimes etc. The Juvenile Justice has developed as a unique entity because it has different rules and regulations for the punishment and control of the crimes than the Criminal Justice System.

The two key elements of the today’s juvenile justice system includes: rehabilitation rather than punishment, and individualized treatment rather than broad or common punishment for every offender.


In recent years the focus of Juvenile Justice System is on individualized treatments for the offenders. The court hears the case and decides on the basis of the legal factors as well as takes into account other-than-legal factors. The judge might send the child for disposition where he or she can get rehabilitation treatment. The rehabilitation for every child is tailored to his or her needs.


Since 1960’s the juvenile justice system developed new regulations regarding juvenile justice these included juvenile rehabilitation rather than punishment. In the past in juvenile courts the judges use to hear to a case in much less formal manner and the attorneys were required in case of serious offence but not necessary for minor cases. Today there are more cases of juvenile offence and the judges take more serious hearing. There are several disposition options, and judge can dispose the child for rehabilitation if necessary.

Every state has juvenile courts that take care of the juvenile crimes. Minor crimes committed by juveniles are dealt differently than if it was committed by adult. Crimes that require severe punishment are dealt the same way as if it was committed by an adult. Punishable crimes include crimes like murder, robberies, drug dealing etc. States do follow some of the regulations established by the Juvenile Justice and Prevention Act of 2002. These regulations are related to the custody of the child in case of serious offence.


The Act states that juveniles who are charged with crimes that would not be considered a crime if committed by an adult should not be placed in a confined lockup place. They should not be confined by the police nor detained as the crime is a status crime not a serious offence.

Sight and sound separation

According to this rule the juvenile offender cannot be placed in the same facility where there are adult criminals. The sight and sound separation means that the juvenile offender cannot even pass through a place where adult criminals are passing by. They should be totally segregated from the adult criminals.

Jail and lockup removal

The juvenile offender can only stay in the adult jail for 6 hours or less before that time he or she should be transported to juvenile custody area. There are although some flexibility for the rural areas where there are few facilities to treat both adult and juvenile offenders separately. In rural areas the juvenile offender can be placed in the adult lockup for 48 hours after which the juvenile should be transported to a juvenile facility.

Disproportionate minority confinement

States must try to reduce minority youth confinement as offenders by trying to reduce their proportion as compared to their overall population.




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