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Legacy of Juvenile Corrections

NCJ Number
Corrections Today Volume: 57 Issue: 5 Dated: (August 1995) Pages: 122,124,152,154
B Krisberg
Date Published
Juvenile corrections has a long history and currently receives little attention, although it urgently needs reform.
The first State juvenile reform school opened in 1846; by 1876 the country had 51 reform schools. Facility administrators determined the length of stay and had broad discretion in transferring disruptive youths to adult prisons. Reformers often referred to as child savers criticized the reform schools, emphasized the need for prevention services, and established children's aid societies. In response, institutional managers began to locate juvenile facilities in rural areas, assuming that farm work would aid the reform process. Conditions of confinement deteriorated sharply after the Civil War. Strong criticism led many states to examine facilities and establish State boards to oversee their operations. In the early part of the 20th Century, the juvenile court movement began to grow. Experiments with alternatives to institutionalization began in the 1950's. Reforms in Massachusetts, including the closing of all training schools, formed the basis of the 1974 Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act. However, political rhetoric and opposition to deinstitutionalization led to punitive legislative reforms in the 1980's. Increasing caseloads and restricted budgets have now produced deteriorating conditions of confinement. Although the current situation has many similarities to that of 100 years ago, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention is exercising a national leadership role in blending treatment and public safety concerns. Renewed interest also exists in upgrading professional standards, professional associations are speaking out against punitive rhetoric, and private philanthropy is supporting progressive juvenile justice reform. Photographs