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The juvenile court system is meant to address court cases that involve people who are under the age of eighteen-years-old. Started at the beginning of the nineteenth century, the system is over one hundred years old. When the system started, there was an emphasis that the law ought to draw a line between juveniles and adults. It was presumed that adults could determine the wrongfulness of their actions; thus, the establishment of the juvenile justice system. Under the law, infants were described as children below the age of seven, and they could not know whether their acts were wrong. Such children could not be found guilty of felony under the law (Drowns et al, 2000).
Children under the age of fourteen years were assumed to know the wrongfulness of their acts; hence, were treated as adults. There were exceptions in the law as such children who did not seem to understand what they did were still treated as infants. Later in the nineteenth century, another milestone was then made in the history of the juvenile justice system as the manner in which juveniles were treated started to change. Those who were pushing for reforms in the justice system believed that special facilities were needed to deal with juveniles who were on the wrong side of the law (Empey et al, 1982).
Around 1899, a major milestone in the juvenile system was reached as Cook County in Illinois opened the first juvenile court. Prior to the opening of the court for the juveniles, Chicago and New York were noted as the first two cities in the United States to separate juvenile offenders from adult offenders. The juvenile court had a theory that implied the rehabilitation of the juvenile offenders rather than punishing them. The state acted as parent to the juvenile with physical and mental disabilities. Under the court system, the best interest of the child was followed to determine how the child could become a productive member of the society. The doctrine of “parens patrie,” therefore, paved way for the rehabilitation program in the history of the juvenile justice system (Tamilia, 2009).
In the evolution of the juvenile court system, the structure has remained essentially the same as it did several decades ago. What has continued to evolve is the manner in which the rights of the juveniles are interpreted even as they work their way through the court system. An example of such evolution was witnessed in 1963 when the U.S Supreme Court found out that every citizen, including the juvenile, had the right to have an attorney in criminal proceedings. Because of the case, the structure of the juvenile court changed, giving room to a juvenile attorney, who is responsible for answering questions that a juvenile might have. The attorney also represents the juvenile rights in a court room (Tamilia, 2009).
Another significant example in the evolution of the juvenile justice system in cited in 1966 when the U.S Supreme Court made a ruling that a juvenile was entitled to a court session when his attorney can access all his records and in which the court offers a written report, citing all the reasons for the bind over to the adult system. Initially, juveniles were facing bindover depending on the seriousness of their case. In 1967, the U.S Supreme Court settled the juvenile constitutional rights. The Supreme Court made a ruling that the juvenile had the same trial rights as adults in cases that could lead to their incarceration (Tamilia, 2009).
Today, the states are known to institute major systemic reforms that are designed to reduce institutional confinement among the juveniles. The juvenile court system has been made more effective as reform schools with appropriate facilities have been built. Community-based interventions have also been expanded to change the lives and systems in the juvenile court history.
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