A separate justice system for juveniles has existed in the United States for over 100 years. It was originally intended to function as a social welfare system with dual aims: to shield young delinquents from the corrupting influence of seasoned adult offenders and to provide delinquents and status offenders with the guidance and treatment necessary to make the often difficult transition through adolescence to become law-abiding adults. Over the last century, and most especially since the 1960s, juvenile justice policy has shifted dramatically, undergoing a series of reforms that have reshaped the system and challenged the principles on which it was founded.
This chapter examines trends in juvenile justice policy and practice in the United States, with a focus on changes that have occurred over the last 10 years. The first section provides a background of the juvenile justice system and initial treatment orientation toward juveniles, as this helps inform the understanding of very recent shifts in the system back toward a more rehabilitative nature. The chapter then details issues pertaining to ages of juveniles punished in juvenile and criminal courts, as the United States faced international scrutiny for laws that allowed for the lifetime incarceration and execution of juvenile offenders. The next section details policy and procedural shifts impacting policing, courts, and custodial institutions, as all levels of the juvenile justice system endured significant structural changes that have fluctuated in recent years between a rehabilitative and punitive nature. Finally, the chapter concludes with a brief discussion of the most recent shift of the juvenile justice system back to a treatment orientation where alternatives to detention and appropriate services based upon the specific needs of juveniles are now receiving greater attention.
M. Taylor (*)
© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2017
S.H. Decker, N. Marteache (eds.), International Handbook of Juvenile Justice, DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-45090-2_7