Juvenile Justice

July 27, 1979

Report Outline
Current Trends in Juvenile Law
Development of the U.S. System
Proposals for Further Change
Special Focus

Current Trends in Juvenile Law

Society's Dilemma: Harshness vs. Leniency

How to deal with juveniles who commit crimes is a question that troubles, indeed perplexes, society. The American system of juvenile justice veers between punishment and rehabilitation, administering a little of both. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that juvenile justice is under fire today on two counts: for being too lenient with youngsters who commit violent crimes, and for being too harsh with those who commit only minor offenses. These separate stands of criticism have led to two divergent trends.

The first, a movement to punish kids more severely for serious crimes, arises in reaction to the large number of serious crimes they committed. In 1977, the last year for which complete statistics are available, persons under 18 accounted for nearly 10 percent of the murders, 17 percent of the rapes, 32 percent of the robberies and 52 percent of the burglaries committed in this country, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

On the other hand, since the early 1970s the federal government and most of the states have begun to remove from penal institutions youngsters under 18 who were arrested for minor offenses or for offenses not considered criminal if committed by adults. Known as status offenses, because they apply only to persons with the legal status of minors, they include such things as running away from home, truancy and being unmanageable.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Juveniles and the Justice System
Sep. 11, 2015  Reforming Juvenile Justice
Mar. 05, 2010  Youth Violence
Nov. 07, 2008  Juvenile Justice
Apr. 27, 2001  Kids in Prison
Mar. 15, 1996  Preventing Juvenile Crime
Feb. 25, 1994  Juvenile Justice
Jul. 17, 1987  Troubled Teenagers
Nov. 28, 1986  Juvenile Justice
Jul. 27, 1979  Juvenile Justice
Feb. 11, 1970  Juvenile Offenders
Jul. 17, 1957  Reform of Delinquents
Sep. 25, 1953  Youngsters in Trouble
Sep. 08, 1950  Teen-Age Lawbreakers
Feb. 23, 1943  Juvenile Delinquency
Juvenile Justice