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When parents fail to informally control their children and prevent wrongful behavior, society has an obligation to punish and correct delinquent youth. The juvenile court is an important component of the American criminal justice system because it adjudicates wrongdoing by juveniles and attempts to prevent future crimes by addressing the root causes of problem youthful behavior.
Examples of criminalization include an increased use of determinate outcomes and more adversarial proceedings.
Despite treatment being the fundamental goal, juvenile courts recently have become more criminalized because of concerns about fairness; that is, they are more like adult criminal courts.
The juvenile court was founded in 1899 in Chicago with the goal of rehabilitating wayward youth.
Future Directions As therapeutic legal institution, the juvenile court balances rehabilitation and justice for America’s youth who are at risk for harm or have violated the law.
Delinquency includes personal and property crimes, such as robbery and burglary.
Behaviors that are prohibited only for youth are called status offenses (the age cutoff between youth and adulthood varies by state).
Critics of the juvenile courts have noted a tendency toward punishment over treatment; thus, juveniles have due process rights in court procedures to ensure fair hearings.
Because of the juvenile court’s rehabilitative orientation and legal authority, it has developed terminology that is analogous to criminal justice terms yet is slightly different. When a juvenile commits a felony crime, it is called delinquency, meaning that a juvenile is delinquent in his or her obligation to society.
For instance, a juvenile is referred to the court rather than arrested.
A formal written complaint against a juvenile is called a petition rather than a charge.