Minnesota Law Review








A century ago, the Progressive reformers who created the juvenile court embraced a particular ideological construction of childhood as one of innocence and vulnerability. They also adopted a scientific conception of social control - positive criminology - that attempted to identify the causes of criminality and purported to treat, rather than to punish, offenders. The juvenile court combined the new conception of childhood with the new strategies of positive criminology to create a judicial-welfare alternative to the adult criminal process for juveniles. The juvenile court affirmed the responsibility of families to raise their children while expanding the state's prerogative to act as parens patriae, or "super-parent," and to exercise flexible social control in the "best interests" of young people. Because of some parents' perceived limitations, the social control of ethnic and racial minority offenders was one of the juvenile court's most important functions. 2 From its inception, the juvenile court sought to assimilate, integrate, "Americanize," and control the children of the southern and eastern European immigrants pouring into the cities of the East and Midwest. 3 A century later, the social control of young black males in the devastated cores of America's post-industrial cities has emerged as one of the juvenile court's primary functions.

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