Juvenile Transfer in the United States

  • Donna M Bishop


From its inception in 1899 and throughout most of its 100-year history, the American juvenile court was firmly rooted in the doctrine of parens patriae. Nascent ideas about differences between young people and adults were especially influential in the creation of a separate juvenile court, whose establishment coincided with the emergence of the fledgling discipline of developmental psychology and with what has come to be known as the child study movement. Two ideas that were advanced in the child-study literature were especially influential (Ryerson 1978: 28–29). The first focused on “childhood innocence”. Greatly influenced by Darwin’s theory of evolution, some argued that children were amoral from birth but were destined to evolve naturally into moral and law-abiding adults. From this perspective, children and adolescents lacked sufficient maturity to be held criminally responsible for their bad acts. Their misdeeds were normal and temporary and would be naturally outgrown in due course, so long as corrupt or misguided adults did not bungle natural processes of development. Thus, Richard Tuthill, the first juvenile court judge in Chicago, warned of “brand[ing] [a child] in the opening years of its life with an indelible stain of criminality” and of placing a child “even temporarily, into the companionship of men and women whose lives are low, vicious, and criminal” (Tuthill 1904: 1–2). Those who shared Tuthill’s view supported a diversionary rationale for the juvenile court: the court would shield youth from criminal convictions and from adult correctional institutions, where exposure to depraved adults might derail their natural development (see also Zimring 2000).


Criminal Justice System Juvenile Justice Positive Youth Development Juvenile Offender Juvenile Justice System 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Donna M Bishop
    • 1
  1. 1.College of Criminal JusticeNortheastern UniversityBostonUSA

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