Young Offenders SOC 3710
Week 1 Readings
Juvenile Delinquents Act – 1908
Young Offenders Act – 1984
Youth Criminal Justice Act – 2003-present
Chapter 1: From ‘Misguided Children’ to ‘Criminal Youth’: Exploring Historical and
Contemporary Trends in Canadian Youth Justice
Change in language – more formal
Dealing with troubled youth – 2 perspectives: reform and rehabilitation vs. punishment
Punitive Turn Thesis: the agreement that, in recent decades, the criminal justice system
of many western countries have become more punishment orientated, with longer
prison sentences and higher rates of incarceration
The Development of Modern Juvenile Justice Systems:
Over time, adult sensibilities about the meaning of childhood and the changing social
and economic status of children in western society have changed and are connected to
the development of early juvenile justice systems in the late 19 and early 20 centuries
Philipe Aries’ book ‘Centuries of childhood: A Social History of Family Life’ (1962), a
history of the treatment of children in western Europe from the middle ages to the 19
century – the concept of childhood has changed over the years. High infant mortality
rate in the middle-ages – no emotional attachment to children. ‘Discovery of Childhood’
in the 17 century – before this, children were treated as small adults. Since, childhood
became recognized as a special stage in the life cycle. From this developed a special
court for juveniles.
Youth legislation is based on historical , social, and international standards
18 century: ‘Juvenile Delinquency’ = legal term to describe violations of the law by
persons below the community’s legal age of adulthood. (This age was often ambiguous
and changed from region to region).
Before this, young criminals were tried as adults, however most courts showed mercy to
the very young (under 7 = not convicted of criminal offenses, and age 7-14 = ‘doli
incapax’ (incapable of doing harm) – this however, could be contested by the crown.
3 common features that came to characterize the operation of all newly invented
juvenile courts and the laws that provided for their establishment:
1. 3 distinct age-graded levels of criminal accountability: none, limited, and full
accountability. Thus, young offender courts = diminished criminal responsibility.
2. Parens Patriae – the state may take custody of youth who; do not have
guardians (orphans) or who’s guardians cannot control them
3. The common belief that juvenile delinquents should be viewed as ‘misguided
children’ and should be treated with ‘friendly helpfullness’.
The Invention of the Juvenile Court in the US:
1899 – Illinois based on the child-welfare model – ‘saving children’ (…but at the same time ‘saved’ the
middle class from the crime of the delinquent children).
This idea ‘cross-fertilized’ into Canada
progressive era in American history – reforms made to