Juvenile Justice System Should Morph Into Surrogate Grandparent, Not Parent
The creation of the juvenile court was a spectacular triumph of the progressive movement in the late 19th century. Advocating for a separate legal process was a bold statement about the developmental differences between adult and adolescents and, consequently, the mitigated culpability of youth who commit crimes.
To sell this iconoclastic idea at the time, progressive reformers leaned heavily on the message that inadequate parenting was to blame for youthful indiscretion. While acknowledging the impact that crowded urban conditions, poverty and strained social cohesion had on juvenile crime, reformers laid most of the responsibility for adolescent behavior on the shoulders of their, often poor, immigrant, cultural minority families. Juvenile courts thus began under the legal precedent of parens patriae (parent of the nation); the same precedent that allows the state to remove abused and neglected children from their homes.