Race and the Jurisprudence of Juvenile Justice: A Tale in Two Parts, 1950-2000

Barry C. Feld, University of Minnesota Law School

This paper analyzes the legal history and jurisprudence of juvenile justice over the past half-century. It argues that the issue of race has had two distinct and contradictory impacts on juvenile justice law and policy during this period. Initially, concerns about racial discrimination and civil rights motivated the Supreme Court to require "due process" in juvenile court delinquency and waiver hearings. Subsequently, the increase in youth homicide and the racial characteristics of violent young offenders provided the political incentive to "get tough" on youth crime through the modification of juvenile court sentencing and transfer laws. The ensuing "crack down" has transformed juvenile courts' jurisprudence and disproportionately affected minority males.

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Updated 05/20/2006