Juvenile Delinquency: the History of the Concept

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Before the establishment of the juvenile court, in the late 18th and early 19th century, youth were placed in jails and penitentiaries as punished for their crimes. Since not many programs or facilities were established to place youth with criminal and noncriminal behavior, they were often placed in jails and pentatrities were adult offenders. At that time, America was struggling with high rates of child poverty and neglect which was putting pressure on city leaders to come up with a solution. 

In response to this problem, two reformers, Thomas Eddy and John Griscom, established the Society for the Prevention of Pauperism. This opposed housing youth in adult jails and prisons in order to create a new facility. In 1825, the New York House of Refuge was established to “house poor, destitute and vagrant youth who are deemed by authorities to be on the path towards delinquency” (CJCJ).

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The New York House of Refuge was the first establishment to help forward the movement of the juvenile justice system. Within three years of its opening, two other facilities were opened in Boston and Philadelphia. The House of Refuge was a large fortress-like building in urban areas designed for abandoned and delinquent children. 

Most of the buildings housed around 200 juveniles while others housed around 1,000. Like any other institution, the building had some rough points. They faced the same issues that were found in jails and prisons like overcrowding, deteriorating conditions and staff abusing the children. Moreover, in the buildings they also focused highly on education and it made this reform an indelible part of America’s juvenile justice system. Today, many reform schools are called youth correctional institutions and they follow the same structural model as the first House of Refuge.

There are nearly 60,000 youth under the age of 18 that are incarcerated in jails and prisons throughout the United States. The incarceration rate in North Carolina for youth under the age of 18 is 75 per 100,000 people. As of 2013, 543 youth were in juvenile facilities in North Carolina. The age of criminal responsibility in North Carolina is 16 years old. Hoke county has a juvenile delinquency rate of 16.8 per 1,000 people according to the “Kids Count Data Center”. In 2015, the youth rate of incarceration was 152 per 100,000 youth. 

Black youth placement rate was 433 per 100,000 youth, compared to a white youth placement rate of 86 per 100,000 youth. In New Jersey, Wisconsin, Montana, Delaware, Connecticut, and Massachusetts, African American youth are at least 10 times as likely to be held in placement as are white youth. Maryland, Montana, Connecticut, Delaware, and Wisconsin saw their racial disparity at double. In North Carolina the black/white youth placement rate per 100,000 as of 2015 is 7.45. 

This is a big number because North Carolina is higher than places like New York and Texas. OJJDP’s analysis of various studies spanning 12 years reveals that, in approximately two-thirds of the studies, “negative race effects” (meaning race explains why minorities remain in the system) were present at various stages of the juvenile justice process.

In India, juvenile justice did not develop like the American system. Beginning in 1850, laws were passed India that protected young delinquents and focused on an apprenticeship program. The Indian government believed that apprenticeship was superior to direct punishment or confinement because it would deter future offenses and give young criminals the ability to find jobs after they had finished with their apprenticeships.

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