Winner, 2020 ACJS Outstanding Book Award, given by the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences
A major statement on the juvenile justice system by one of America’s leading experts
The juvenile court lies at the intersection of youth policy and crime policy. Its institutional practices reflect our changing ideas about children and crime control. The Evolution of the Juvenile Court provides a sweeping overview of the American juvenile justice system’s development and change over the past century. Noted law professor and criminologist Barry C. Feld places special emphasis on changes over the last 25 years—the ascendance of get tough crime policies and the more recent Supreme Court recognition that “children are different.”
Feld’s comprehensive historical analyses trace juvenile courts’ evolution though four periods—the original Progressive Era, the Due Process Revolution in the 1960s, the Get Tough Era of the 1980s and 1990s, and today’s Kids Are Different era. In each period, changes in the economy, cities, families, race and ethnicity, and politics have shaped juvenile courts’ policies and practices. Changes in juvenile courts’ ends and means—substance and procedure—reflect shifting notions of children’s culpability and competence.
The Evolution of the Juvenile Court examines how conservative politicians used coded racial appeals to advocate get tough policies that equated children with adults and more recent Supreme Court decisions that draw on developmental psychology and neuroscience research to bolster its conclusions about youths’ reduced criminal responsibility and diminished competence. Feld draws on lessons from the past to envision a new, developmentally appropriate justice system for children. Ultimately, providing justice for children requires structural changes to reduce social and economic inequality—concentrated poverty in segregated urban areas—that disproportionately expose children of color to juvenile courts’ punitive policies.
Historical, prescriptive, and analytical, The Evolution of the Juvenile Court evaluates the author’s past recommendations to abolish juvenile courts in light of this new evidence, and concludes that separate, but reformed, juvenile courts are necessary to protect children who commit crimes and facilitate their successful transition to adulthood.
"Feld has delivered an important book that will enrich scholars understanding of race and juvenile justice in the recent American past. Though the work might have more closely examined the tensions within, and failures of, the US juvenile justice system since its inception-not just in the & Get Tough era-Feld nonetheless makes a compelling case for reform and restitution." ~Journal of the History of Childhood and Youth
"Felds work contributes to our understanding of the transformations in the juvenile court across the 20th century[His] work provides a solid foundation from which to rethink the interplay of race, gender, and class as well as the social and political context in the criminalizing of children."
"Professor Feld wrote (and continues to write) in a unique way, integrating legal and social science research, with an underlying passion for doing right by children and youth in our society[Most] recently, The Evolution of the Juvenile Court: Race, Politics, and the Criminalizing of Juvenile Justice provides an up-to-date, thorough, critical, and evidence-based assessment of past and current juvenile justice philosophy and system operations in our country. It is a book that should be read and utilized by policy-makers, researchers, practitioners, and students."
"Its about time someone wrote a book that informs readers about the unadulterated truth of how we treat kids in America. It isnt flattering, and worse, the future doesnt look promising despite reform movements peppered across our nation." ~Juvenile Justice Information Exchange
"Students of juvenile justice, youth advocates, and policymakers need to read this book. They will undoubtedly learn the sad reality of late twentieth-century juvenile justice reforms, and why current policies disproportionately punish impoverished minority youth. No scholar has written more persuasively and boldly about the legal, sociological, and developmental reasons to pursue justice for all juveniles than Barry Feld."
"Feld has created a thorough and insightful history of the juvenile court system that is a worthy read for both those new to the field and those with extensive knowledge. Furthermore, the book is presented in a manner that is accessible to non-academics while supplying the depth and documentation that those in academia desire. Finally, through the breadth of the scholarship, the work has relevance to those whose focus is law, history, crime, policy, or social science. Feld has crafted a seminal book in the study and interpretation of the juvenile court."
"Provides a comprehensive history of juvenile justice, from the creation of the first juvenile court to the current era. Feld applies his deep reading of legal, social, economic, demographic, and crime trends throughout the past century to help us understand how and why we punish children as we do, and what we should do better. Feld weaves together his background as legal scholar, historian, and sociologist to produce this extraordinary analysis - it is the most thorough and important treatment of juvenile justice I have read."
"Barry C. Feld has been a longtime advocate for young people and a critic of the juvenile justice system. The Evolution of the Juvenile Court culminates his career, bringing together broad and deep knowledge across numerous fields to make a powerful argument for change. The book will be highly valuable for scholars in various disciplines and for policy makers across the United States and beyond."
"No one understands the creation, evolution, and transformation of the juvenile court more than Barry Feld. In The Evolution of the Juvenile Court, Feld reveals the recurring exploitation of delinquency as a politically-contested notion throughout the courts first century. Feld applies his vast knowledge of youth crime and juvenile justice to explain how enlightenment science has launched a new era to advance child development within the law. This book shows a path forward to realize the twin ideals of the juvenile court and the foundational rights of adolescents."