Crime and Justice
Progressive reformers envisioned a therapeutic juvenile court that made individualized treatment decisions in the child's "best interests." The Supreme Court's Gault decision provided the impetus for transforming the juvenile court from an informal welfare agency into a scaled-down criminal court. Since Gault, the juvenile court procedures increasingly resemble those of adult courts, although in some respects, such as assistance of counsel, juveniles receive less adequate protections. Judicial and legislative changes have altered the juvenile court's jurisdiction over noncriminal status offenders and serious young offenders-as the former are diverted from the system, the latter are transferred to adult criminal courts. Juvenile courts increasingly punish youths for their offenses rather than treat them for their "real needs." These charges eliminate most differences between juvenile and criminal courts. The juvenile court must either develop a new rationale and mandate or face further erosion and redundancy.
Barry C. Feld, Criminalizing the American Juvenile Court, 17 Crime & Just. 197 (1993), available at http://scholarship.law.umn.edu/faculty_articles/299.