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Before the sixteenth century children were considered either property to be traded or small adults, when by the age 5 or 6 were expected to assume the roll of an adult. As the centuries moved forward the views of children changed, children were seen not as miniature adults but as having a distinct personality, that they were easily corrupted and needed to be corrected to become morale and productive members of society.
In the colonial era of America the family was the basic unit of economic production and the main outlet for social interaction also religion was a main staple that held a community together and is where families turned to when they had trouble in the home.
As the country grew so did the need for some type of institutions for youth offenders. These places were called "houses of refuge" The youth in these places were reformed into hard working productive members of society. The stay in one of these places were in determined time or until they reached the age of 18 or 21 depending on their crime and the willingness of the youth to reform and become a responsible citizen.
By the end of the 1800s different types institutions and mechanisms were developed to respond to the difficult children. Still, the problems presented by the children who were believed to be in need of so type of correction were the homeless, the neglected, abused and wayward as well as the ones with criminal behavior. A new group of reformers called the "the child savers", advocated a new institution to deal with these youth problems. Thus began the juvenile courts.
By the late 1800s the legal mechanism was in place for treating of youth different from adults Examples
of this were that in some jurisdictions had set minimum age to which a juvenile could be charged as an adult and placed in adult penitentiaries.
The legal philosophy justifying states intervening in the lives of children is the doctrine of "parens patriae"(the state as parent) was given the judicial endorsement in the case of Mary Ann Crouse who had been committed to the Philadelphia House of Refuge by her mother as a punishment and against her father\'s wishes,. the Commonwealth Supreme Court of Pennsylvania stated that it wasn\'t a punishment but a benevolence, no due process claim could be made by the father, and that the father had no standing anyway because the commonwealth had the legal responsibility to step in as to were the parents were irresponsible in their obligations to their children.
An interesting question came up in the 1905 case of the Commonwealth vs. Fisher where the Pennsylvania supreme court ruled that parens patriae always trumps due process in the juvenile justice. When the Commonwealth acts on parens patriae no due process protection is necessary. No treatment plans are needed it is assumed that anything the Commonwealth does to a child in its custody is better than what the parents could provide. The Fisher case set the tone for juvenile justice up until the 1960s.
An activist United States Supreme Court in the 1960s significantly altered the juvenile justice system. That sets the tone for today\'s courts. Three cases that are worth looking at are Kent vs. the US (1966) This is the first full scale examination of the juvenile justice system brought on by the case of a 16 year old rapist who was transferred to adult court. The justices ruled that such waivers or transfers should be accompanied by a special hearing, the assistance of counsel, access to records by such counsel, and a written statement of reasons for such transfer.
In re Gault (1967) A landmark case on the failure of the juvenile justice system involving a 15 year old adjudicated delinquent on the word of an Arizona sheriff\'s deputy sentenced to 6 years for an offense (telephone harassment) that carried a two month penalty if committed as an adult. The Justices ruled that the juveniles deserve the right against self incrimination (Miranda Rights) adequate notice of charge, the right confront and cross examine accusers, assistance of counsel, and he rights of sworn testimony and appeal. With this the juvenile courts became more formal and adversarial.
The Third case
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Legal procedure, Juvenile court, Parens patriae, In re Gault, McKeiver v. Pennsylvania, American juvenile justice system, Trial as an adult
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