Pub. date: 2008 | Online Pub. Date: May 28, 2008 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412963930 | Print ISBN: 9781412941655 | Online ISBN: 9781412963930 | Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Prior to 1899, the concept of delinquency—the idea that juvenile crime is something different than crime committed by adults—was nonexistent. When youth violated laws at that time, most people regarded their actions as crimes worthy of the same court processing and punishments (even prison and the death penalty) as offenses committed by adults. Experts credit a group of progressive reformers in the late 1800s, known as the “child savers,” for inventing the concept. Their efforts resulted in the creation of separate juvenile courts and correctional programs. Crimes committed by juveniles were thereafter construed as having different causes than adult crime. Youth were considered less responsible for their actions and, therefore, more deserving of treatment rather than punishment. The child savers also helped to establish status offense laws that defined activities as illegal for persons under a specified age. For example, underage smoking, alcohol use by minors, school truancy, and youth ...