The Elusive Juvenile Court

David S. Tanenhaus

in The Oxford Handbook of Juvenile Crime and Juvenile Justice

Published in print December 2011 | ISBN: 9780195385106
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

 The Elusive Juvenile Court

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  • Criminology and Criminal Justice
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  • Courts and Procedure


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This article traces the ideological origins and legal foundations of the juvenile court. It examines juvenile courts at work in the early twentieth century, their guiding principles, and the later development of federal juvenile justice in the 1930s. It also assesses the U.S. Supreme Court's due process revolution that introduced more procedural requirements as well as lawyers into juvenile court during the 1960s, but simultaneously undercut one of the rationales (i.e., “the rehabilitative ideal”) for having a separate justice system for juveniles. It further focuses on the “get tough” era of the 1980s and 1990s, a time when most states made it easier to prosecute adolescents in the criminal justice system. Finally, it gives a brief discussion of future of the juvenile court. Despite jurisdictional changes, procedural reforms, and the erosion of the rehabilitative ideal, the juvenile court remains a flawed but resilient fixture in modern American governance.

Keywords: juvenile court; federal juvenile justice; process revolution; get tough era; jurisdictional changes; rehabilitative ideal; juvenile court; modern American governance

Article.  10947 words. 

Subjects: Criminology and Criminal Justice ; Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice ; Courts and Procedure

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