When juvenile crime rates soared in the mid-1990s, nearly every state began prosecuting and incarcerating minors as adults. But the rise in crime quickly turned into a steady decline, and by 1997 the juvenile homicide rate had dropped to its lowest level in 25 years. But occasional schoolyard shootings and other high-profile incidents of youth violence have kept the nation's focus on juvenile crime. As a result, most states still have tough juvenile justice laws, and many states continue to treat juvenile offenders as incorrigible adults, including many charged with non-violent offenses. Prosecutors say strict laws are still necessary to protect the public, but critics say such policies cause grave harm to the nation's youth — and to society at large.