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Juvenile Justice System Structure and Process


The first juvenile court in the United States was established in Chicago in 1899, more than 100 years ago. The juvenile justice system was founded on and guided by the concept of rehabilitation through individualized justice. During the last 30 years, there have been a number of shifts in the systemís orientation toward juvenile justice policy.

In response to the rise in violent crime in the early 1990s and public scrutiny of the systemís ability to effectively control violence by youth, States adopted numerous legislative changes, including those that made it easier for youth to be prosecuted as adults. Since that time, offending by youth (particularly violent offending) has fallen considerably and States have again made changes to laws and policies. Some of these changes have been informed by research on the unique developmental needs of adolescents and the interventions that work to improve outcomes for youth in juvenile justice. In recent years, several States have redefined the age boundaries of their juvenile courts to raise the upper age of original jurisdiction.

This section describes the juvenile justice system, focusing on structure and process features that relate to delinquency and status offense matters. Topics covered in this section include jurisdictional age boundaries for delinquency and status offense matters, administration of delinquency services (e.g., probation, detention, aftercare and corrections), the core requirements of the JJDPA, and trying youth as adults in criminal court.

Much of the information presented in this section was drawn from the National Center for Juvenile Justiceís analysis of juvenile codes in each State.


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