Source: (2006) In, John Muncie and Barry Goldson, eds., Comparative Youth Justice, London: Sage Publications. PP. 6-18.

This chapter traces the evolution of the American juvenile justice system from the 1960s through the early 2000s. In 1968, the U.S. Supreme Court decision in In re Gault, which proclaimed that minors were entitled to due process and equal protection in court proceedings, changed the course of juvenile justice. The sentiment throughout the country during the 1970s was that juvenile offenders should be deinstitutionalized and emphasis should be placed on rehabilitation rather than punishment. In 1974, Congress enacted the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA), which established the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) to conduct research and training and make funding available to States and jurisdictions. While OJJDP made great strides for juvenile justice in its early years, both Presidents Reagan and Bush (the elder), curtailed funding for the OJJDP and appointed conservative people to head OJJDP who had limited or no qualifications. The moral panic created by a surge in juvenile violence during the early 1990s also prompted public sentiment to shift away from rehabilitation and back toward confinement. President Clinton’s appointment of Janet Reno as the U.S. Attorney General guided the OJJDP back on its course and provided it with a focus on delinquency prevention as the key component to combating youth crime. President George W. Bush, on the other hand, appointed a leader with little experience and then succeeded in decreasing OJJDP funding. The author contends that at the dawn of the 21st century, there are three major juvenile justice initiatives that have the potential to revolutionize the American juvenile justice system: (1) balanced and restorative justice; (2) the OJJDP Comprehensive Strategy; and (3) the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative. Following a brief description of these initiatives, which focus on restorative justice practices and the value of crime prevention, the author contends that major changes are needed to save the under-funded, under-staffed American juvenile justice system. (Abstract courtesy of the National Criminal Justice Reference Service,