The Birth of Juvenile Justice in America Until the 20 century, societies judged juvenile offenders the same way they judged adult offenders. In Canada and the United States, as in much of the world, society viewed children as little adults. Punishments were very harsh for youths who committed crimes; many minor crimes were even punishable by death. It was not until the 19th century that attitudes began to change and soften as people began to realize that children had special needs. In the 150 years since then, there have been many important changes in juvenile incarceration. The History of the Juvenile Justice System in the United States Prior to the 19th century, U.S. society seemed to understand the concept of in- fants and toddlers but had no understanding of childhood and its special needs. When children got into trouble and their families could not handle them, society punished them in one of three ways: authorities bound them to middle- and upper-class skilled artisans as apprentices; childrenwere bound to any responsible adult to be used in any way the adult needed; or churches administered discipline such as whippings, beatings, or brandings, the same punishments that any adult would receive.

During the Industrial Revolution, it was not unusual to see children like this young girl in factories or mills. They often worked and sent their wages to support their families at home.


Juveniles Growing Up in Prison

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