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Historically, children under the age of seven have been considered below the age of reason, and therefore unable to formulate the criminal intent necessary to be held accountable for criminal offenses.In practice, children younger than age 10 are rarely involved in the juvenile justice system.
Before the Progressive Era, children who were over the age of seven were put in jail with adults.
In the early part of the 1800’s reformers started to become concerned with the overcrowded environment in the jails and prisons, and the corruption young kids were experiencing when locked up with adult prisoners.
Structural changes in society, including fewer two-parent homes and more maternal employment, have contributed to a lack of resources for the supervision of children's and adolescents' free time.
Government policy on juvenile delinquency must often struggle with the appropriate balance of concern over the healthy development of children and adolescents who violate the law and a public desire to punish criminals.
A specific group of Progressives, called the "child savers," focused the majority of their attention on finding and curing the causes of juvenile delinquent behavior.
The child savers group viewed the juvenile offenders as adolescents in need of care and direction, not punishment (Myers, 2008).
In In re Gault (1967), Justice Fortas summed up the views of the child savers: “The early reformers were horrified by adult procedures and penalties, and by the fact that children could be given long prison sentences and thrown in jails with toughened criminals.
Disregarding graduated treatment: Why transfer aggravates recidivism.
Crime policies in the United States have been moving in the direction of treating juveniles as adults, even though many young people continue to grow up in settings that “fail to provide the resources, the supports, and the opportunities essential to a healthy development and reasonable preparation for productive adulthood” (National Research Council, 1993a:2)—settings that put young people at high risk for delinquency.
In 1997, 40 percent of all those living below the poverty level in the United States were under the age of 18 (Snyder and Sickmund, 1999).