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date: 17 January 2021

Abstract and Keywords

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

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