Preventing Mental Illness, Preventing Delinquency: Juvenile Justice and Child Psychiatry in Post-war America
The United States was the first country in the modern world to develop a distinct and comprehensive juvenile justice system that encompassed social services, the courts and separate detention institutions for juveniles. Justice and penal workers aspired to be part of a growing set of professionals who would rebuild the nation and the world after the Second World War to be better, progressive and just. They wanted to align themselves with other professions who were organising and making a positive difference. Medicine was the model of a profession that science and professional organisation had transformed into a force for good. Criminal justice, seen in its best light, is a discipline that also tries to heal the sick: if a society truly believes in second chances and rehabilitation, then its justice system must repair the damaged citizen and return them to civic health. Children, due to their youth and supposed innocence, have often been seen as ideal candidates for this process. However, political reluctance to use limited government funds in support of those seen as proto-criminals, as well as the inheritance of institutions built based on a very different set of goals, hobbled attempts to create a truly rehabilitative set of institutions.