By 1884, New York=s judges had the discretion to assign delinquents under the age of 16 to the care of a guardian or an institution, rather than sending them to prison. The first true juvenile court was established in Illinois in 1899, and, within 20 years, almost every state had some version of its own of such court. However, Friedman (1985) argues, AJuvenile justice was a reform hatched by the >child-savers= of the nineteenth century. Its paternalism, middle-class bias, and absence of due process make it seem less progressive after eighty-five years than it did to the good people of its day@ (p. 599).
Alex Kotlowitz (1991) chronicles Illinois= system more than 90 years later, in which 250 probation officers and 137 state=s attorneys, public guardians, and public defenders struggle to handle 75 to 80 cases each day, twice as many as the average adult court. Lawyers, many of whom see children=s court as a necessary stepping stone to Areal@ court, often handle 400 active cases at a time, frequently with about five minutes to prepare for each one (p. 68).
Public attitudes toward juvenile justice have been cyclical, as the system has alternately tried to focus either on rehabilitation or chastisement, depending on the prevailing force of public sentiment. Jenson and Howard (1998, July) note that 1970-85, for instance, were a period of decriminalization and deinstituti