THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE JUVENILE JUSTICE SYSTEM IN THE UNITED STATES: A TEXAS CASE STUDY
This thesis analyzes the evolution of the juvenile justice system in America tracing its developments, reforms, and failures from the Progressive Era into the Kids are Different Era. The transformation of the juvenile justice system can be examined sociologically, politically, economically, and legally, yet the purpose of this work is to consider the history of the system itself and the role that mainstream media has had in the perception of juvenile delinquency throughout the system’s lifetime. To further examine the impact of the system on a particular demographic from the nineteenth century into the twenty-first, this thesis considers and evaluates public discourse surrounding female juvenile delinquency in Texas, uncovering the pervasiveness and danger of attaching lifetime labels to young women. Throughout this survey it is apparent that the difficulty in defining and explaining “juvenile delinquency” combined with the diverse definitions of “childhood” complicated the system’s effectiveness and further contributed to the perpetuation of myths describing “killer kids” and “wild girls” to the public. The erosive power possessed by the media is evident in this evaluation of the system’s history and although it has been detrimental to the rights of children and the portrayal of young females in the past, moving forward it maintains the influence to deconstruct these narratives of child “super-predators” and educate the public about the importance of trauma-based therapy for juvenile offenders.