Using Texas as a case study for understanding change in the
American juvenile justice system over the past century, William S.
Bush tells the story of three cycles of scandal, reform, and
retrenchment, each of which played out in ways that tended to
extend the privileges of a protected childhood to white middle- and
upper-class youth, while denying those protections to blacks,
Latinos, and poor whites.
On the forefront of both progressive and "get tough" reform
campaigns, Texas has led national policy shifts in the treatment of
delinquent youth to a surprising degree. Changes in the legal
system have included the development of courts devoted exclusively
to young offenders, the expanded legal application of psychological
expertise, and the rise of the children's rights movement. At the
same time, broader cultural ideas about adolescence have also
changed. Yet Bush demonstrates that as the notion of the teenager
gained currency after World War II, white, middle-class teen
criminals were increasingly depicted as suffering from curable
emotional disorders even as the rate of incarceration rose sharply
for black, Latino, and poor teens. Bush argues that despite the
struggles of reformers, child advocates, parents, and youths
themselves to make juvenile justice live up to its ideal of
offering young people a second chance, the story of
twentieth-century juvenile justice in large part boils down to "the
exclusion of poor and nonwhite youth from modern categories of
childhood and adolescence."
Subjects: History, Law, Sociology
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