Juvenile Court Statutes–Are They Void for Vagueness?


The modern juvenile court was born out of a 19th century spirit of social justice. This reform manifested itself in a concern over the need for protection and treatment of children to enable them to lead productive and healthy lives. The earliest reform in the treatment of children occurred in 1824 when the city of New York opened its House of Refuge where for the first time juvenile offenders were separated from adult offenders and were given corrective treatment. Boston (1826) and Philadelphia (1828) followed New York’s example and established youth institutions similar to the House of Refuge. In 1848, Massachusetts opened the first state juvenile reform institution.

Despite those advances, the adult offender and the juvenile continued to face the criminal justice system through the same process. In 1899 Illinois set the example for reform in this area by establishing a separate juvenile court. By 1910, twenty-two states had followed the Illinois example; by 1925 all but two states had juvenile courts, and today over 2700 juvenile courts exist in every state and the District of Columbia.

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