January 18 , 2012
Chapter 3: Responding to Youth Crime Historical Origins of Juvenile Justice
- The Juvenile Delinquents Act (JDA) and the discourse of juvenile delinquency
conditioned juvenile governance in Canada.
- Emergence of separate system for youths. This strategy was gendered. It this
era (19 -20 century) juvenile delinquency was largely a boy problem.
Female young offenders were not the priority problem.
Social Reformers and Governance Strategies
- In the 19 century, social reformers primarily upper-middle-class business,
political and legal male elites began to question wisdom of the dominant
way of adjudicating youth through the system of punishment.
- Gradually they created a separate system fashioned with different
philosophies and principles.
- The recognition that youth should be treated differently was first evident in
- This represented a break from the classical legal governance (a generalized
system of adjudication and punishment) and a move towards modern legal
governance (particularized system based on knowledge of the offender
rather than his or her criminal conduct). This was a gradual shift not in a
snap of fingers.
- Informal governance: includes such forms of social control like church
discipline, shaming and other community-based strategies, and remains in
existence today. Exerts control over youthful deviance at a distance, either
from city, the street, rural countryside, the community, the state or the
formal legal system.
- Church governance was common in 19 century in rural areas. The church
dealt with theft or family disputes for example.
- Communities often intervened informally to normalize deviant actions.
- Shaming practices were evident in community rituals like charivari (mocking
of the culprit by an entourage, sometimes violent).
- Social constructionist perspective approach: juvenile delinquency becomes a
problem when it is defined by social reformers (prominent
individuals/groups). It becomes a problematic when it is labeled by
- Objectivist approach: delinquency is only a problem because adolescents
social behavior and/or criminal conduct became dangerous to the broader
society at a particular historical moment.
Early Perspectives: Surely These are the Worst of Times?
- Notion that children no longer obey their parents. - This is a wide spread agreement among adult members of contemporary
Canada. That youth are more problematic and poorly behaved than they
were in the past.
- It appears this is the case.
- This is however a myth. Long ago philosophers like Socrates commented that
youth were destructive and lacked discipline.
- People have been saying that children have been loosing their way for years.
- Notion of moral panic in regards to youth crime. In Canada, more recently,
this started in the 1990s.
- Childhood and juvenile delinquency
o Childhood was not always understood as distinct status in life.
o Juvenile delinquency developed from the recognition of childhood as a
distinct stage of development. Represented a wide-ranging social
change in the 19 century.
o Childhood was discovered in the 17 century Western Europe. Before
then children were viewed as little adults. Few social and cultural
distinctions were made in terms of age.
o Aries argument that childhood is a cultural artifact rather than a
biological imperative that needs attention. Thus childhood is socially
Generalized Justice: Classical Legal Governance
- Earliest form of youth governance is classical legal governance. Made very
little distinction between young and adult offenders. Primarily concerned
with establishing guilt or innocence.
- For a criminal act two occur, two fundamental conditions must be met:
o Actus reus: an act that violates criminal law statutes must take place.
o Mens rea: the individual whose behavior contravened with the law
must have the mental capacity or criminal intent to fully appreciate
the consequences of his or her conduct.
o Before Confederation, kids 7+ were treated much the same as adults
with the exception of doli incapax. Young people 14+ were presumed
mature enough to appreciate the consequences of their behavior. Kids
under 7 were thought to be incapable of wrongdoing and immune to
o Therefore those assumed doli incapax, could only be convicted if the
Crown could prove mens rea.
o Penalties for criminal conduct were notoriously harsh. Ex. Whipping,
hanging, servitude, exile, incarceration, iron collars, branding or
o The classical legal approach reflected the twin goals of retribution
(punishment deserve, an eye for an eye) and deterrence (preventing
crime through fear of punishment or threat).
o Punishment given to offender with little consideration to individual
o Age was no primary consideration.o Children treated the same when awaiting trial.
o Mixed with all sorts of adult serious criminals.
Towards a Separate Juvenile Justice System
Socio Economic Social Reformers Social Welfare Anti Institutional
Climate and Movements Penality Discourse
Immigration Reformatory and The Canadian state Dissatisfaction
industrial schools with
Urbanization Public schools and The rise of social Appeal of
child welfare welfare community
Industrialization International Changes in Probation
- Socio economic climate: Immigration, urbanization and industrialization
o Before Confederation, Canadian was an agricultural nation.
Afterwards, urbanization and industrialization reshaped social,
economic and political aspects.
o Population more than doubled. There was a large group of orphans
from the famine in the 1840s. And there were many immigrants.
o Population of the poor also grew. Elite targeted dangerous working
class and immigrant parents as detrimental. T