Development of the American Juvenile Court System

AuthorR.M. Braithwaite
Published date01 March 1947
Date01 March 1947
Subject MatterArticles
By MISS R. M. BRAITHWAITE, Probation Officer, Toynbee Hall, London
In July, 1946, Mr. K. D. F. McIntyre and I had the good
therefore, is unstandardised and inconsistent; in some
fortune to be sent to the U.S.A. by the British Committee
States the Laws are incomplete and defective, whilst
for the Interchange of Social Workers and Administrators
other States have adequate Laws but fail to put them
&dquo; to study and observe American probation methods.&dquo;
into operation on a State-wide basis. There is also some
We spent 5 months in the Eastern States and visited
disparity between the theory and practice of their juvenile
a great many courts, social agencies and correctional
court philosophy.
I spent a month at the First District
In 1925 the National Probation Association drafted a
Juvenile Court of the State of Connecticut, and 6 weeks
Standard Juvenile Court Act in accordance with scientific
at the Juvenile Court of Allegheny County, Pittsburgh,
knowledge and modern American conceptions of child
Pennsylvania, and thus had an excellent opportunity of
This Standard Act and subsequent revisions
studying the American Juvenile Court system at first
thereof, frees Juvenile Courts, as far as possible, from
any taint of the criminal court, &dquo; from historical attitudes
It seems that on both sides of the Atlantic the
and legalistic procedures which hamper other parts of
Humanitarian Movement was responsible for arousing
the American criminal justice system&dquo; and lays down a
interest in the treatment of young offenders under the
pattern of &dquo;socialised justice&dquo; which enables each case to
criminal law. In England the first legislative result of
be dealt with on an individual basis.
To date, eleven
this stirring of the public conscience was an Act passed
States and the District of Columbia have incorporated
in 1847 &dquo; to ensure the more speedy trial of Juvenile
nearly all the provisions of this Standard Act into their
Offenders and to avoid the Evils of their long imprison-
Juvenile Court Laws and seven others have included some
ment previously to Trial.&dquo;
American reformers had
of its provisions, so that one may safely generalise so far
meanwhile directed their early efforts to the establish-
as to say that American Juvenile Courts have been taken
ment of reformatories to which young offenders might
out of the Criminal Courts system, and that they are now
be sent after conviction; from 1825 onwards various
Courts of Chancery or equity.

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