SAGE Journal Articles

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Journal Article 1: Pisciotta, A. W. (1982). Saving the children: The promise and practice of parens patriae, 1838-98. Crime & Delinquency, 28, 410–425.

Abstract: Although the doctrine of parens patriae has served as the legal and moral foundation of the American juvenile justice system for the last 142 years, it has been the subject of but a few empirical or historical inquiries. This study addresses the problem by contrasting the theory and practice of parens patriae as it was applied in juvenile reformatories from the landmark decision incorporating the doctrine into the American legal structure in 1838—Ex parte Crouse—until it was extended and applied as the underlying rationale for the founding of the juvenile court in 1899. A review of Ex parte Crouse and ensuing legal decisions reveals that nineteenth century judges invoked parens patriae and committed minors to reformatories for noncriminal acts on the premise that juvenile institutions would have a benevolent effect upon their charges. In theory, reformatories were "schools" which provided parental discipline, meaningful labor, religious instruction, education, and a beneficial apprenticeship to their charges. The assumptions underlying parens patriae are assessed by contrasting the internal operation and effects of a number of juvenile reformatories with the stated expectations of the courts. An examination of the records of reformatories—including annual reports, daily journals of superintendents and matrons, minutes of indenture committees, case histories, as well as a number of investigations—suggests that there was a significant disparity between the care promised to minors by committing judges and the implementation of parens patriae in nineteenth century institutions.

Journal Article 2: Trost, J. (2013). From juvenile court to safe haven: The lessons of juvenile justice history and the 2008 Nebraska safe haven lawCriminal Justice Review, 38, 291–302.

Abstract: The history of juvenile justice helps explain American families’ unexpected use of the 2008 Nebraska safe haven law. This article uses journalistic sources both to recreate the unfolding drama and as a measure of the public understanding of the safe haven law and juvenile justice, while also presenting a summary of relevant historical research about juvenile justice for the wider scholarly community in criminal justice. The history of the juvenile court repeatedly shows families using the court and its ancillary services for their own purposes, no matter the legislative or legal intent. One lesson of the recent Nebraska safe haven legislation is to show the need for meaningful dialogue between scholars, policy makers, and practitioners; another is to take into account the long history of juvenile justice.