The first juvenile court was established in 1899 in Cook County, Illinois. Before that time, children were treated very similar to adult criminals. If they were imprisoned, they would be thrown in jail with adult men and women and they carried out the same sentences as their adult counterparts. Children who were convicted of certain offenses were even sentenced to death.
Unruly or abandoned children were sent to private orphanages, work houses and training schools - in addition to involuntary servitude once the child reached adulthood. The systems by which juvenile delinquents were controlled forced the children to work long hours with no pay under horrific conditions. The programs did not aim to rehabilitate the children in any way; by contrast, they served to exploit them.
It wasn’t until the Industrial Revolution that public awareness grew regarding the fair and ethical treatment of children in the workforce. A growing number of people became concerned about excessive child labor where children would work long hours in factories with very little pay.
Slowly but surely, reform groups began to spring up, pressing for child labor laws and other programs aimed at reversing this trend. Many adults felt that urbanization and industrialization would have a negative impact on our nation’s children. Little did they know then that these child labor laws would soon pave the way for the way that children were handled in the juvenile justice system. Women such as Jane Adams and Julia Lathrop, in addition to the National Council of Mothers, lobbied successfully for a separate juvenile justice system on behalf of the minors.
People’s views on separate juvenile systems were divided. Some people were empathetic towards the women’s efforts while others felt it was a reaction to the increased delinquency caused by the Industrial Revolution. Regardless of the opinions, the fact that children were being exploited as opposed to being “saved” could not be ignored.
Today, the juvenile system has certainly evolved over the years. Children are viewed as people with their own legal rights as opposed to chattel or slave labor. Instead of exposing children to adult criminals or imposing lengthy prison terms, they are usually handled with a “rehabilitative approach.”
Study after study has proven that children who are handled in the adult court are more inclined to re-offend compared to those children who are handled in the juvenile justice system for a similar offense. Of those youth that committed new crimes, those individuals that were sent to the adult court re-offended at twice the rate of those sent to juvenile court.
In the state of Florida, the Department of Juvenile Justice makes it their primary mission to reduce juvenile delinquency through prevention, intervention and treatment services. The department also works side by side with families, schools, religious groups, businesses, law enforcement and communities.
In the state of Florida, a juvenile delinquent is any person who is charged with committing a crime before turning 18 years of age. Children can still be tried in the adult system, depending on the nature of the crime, their age and whether or not they have a prior criminal history. The state attorney will make the ultimate decision of whether or not the child will be handled in the adult or the juvenile system.
Sadly, statistics show that approximately 30 to 40% of all boys growing up in an urban area will get arrested before their 18th birthday. Determining factors that lead to juvenile delinquency can help parents learn about prevention. For example, children who grow up with either one parent households or households where both parents work all the time are at a higher risk for juvenile delinquency due to lack of supervision.
A strong family environment is crucial to the upbringing of children. When children are raised by criminal parents, they can learn by their parent’s bad example or criminal indoctrination. Children are almost certainly set up for a pattern of bad behavior in such unhealthy environments. Of course, peer pressure is also a common factor in juvenile crime. Children are susceptible to doing things they wouldn’t normally do out of desire for acceptance amongst their peers.
Regardless of the contributing factors that lead our nation’s youth to juvenile crime, these children are tomorrow’s future. What we do today with our troubled youth, will impact every aspect of our future society.
When our youth are facing potential adult penalties, they require an experienced criminal defense attorney who acts as their personal advocate throughout the criminal process. It is highly encouraged that should your child be criminally charged that you do not hesitate to contact a knowledgeable lawyer that you can trust. Contact with an Fort Lauderdale experienced criminal attorney today and learn more about the steps that can be taken to defend the best interests of your child and entire family.