The Common Thread
The Common Thread
Diversion in Juvenile Justice
Two justifications existed from the start for creating a juvenile court, referred to as the interventionist and diversionary justifications for a separate children's court. The diversionary justification for juvenile court was always the most important of the two rationales, and it remains so today. Diversionary principles of juvenile justice are well suited both to a modern theory of adolescent development and to concern about procedural fairness and proportionality in legal response to youth crime. This chapter shows both continuity and coherence to the diversionary rationale for juvenile courts through the first hundred years of their history. The chapter is organized as follows. The first section sets out the two discrete justifications for creation of a juvenile court and documents the diversionary agenda of turn-of-the-century reformers. The second section shows the extent to which the major programmatic elements of early juvenile justice were consistent with diversionary justifications and methods. The third section addresses the modern concept of juvenile justice as reflected in two leading Supreme Court cases. It was a diversionary theory of juvenile court that could accommodate due process rules without sacrifices of youth welfare. The fourth section is concerned with the contemporary understanding of juvenile justice as a passive virtue. It shows that the effectiveness of juvenile courts in protecting youth from full criminal punishment is the heart of the reason the court has so many contemporary enemies.
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