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All You Need to Know About The History Juvenile Detention

History Juvenile Detention

In the United States, the 19th Century marked the beginning of the use of juvenile detention center facilities. Juvenile detention programs were really only a subset of a larger American effort toward "reformatory" institutions and attitudes that also encompassed rehabilitation of young women (usually those pregnant out of wedlock) and young adult men (who were found guilty of some crime or vice).

The name "reformatory" in itself is a synonym for a center was multifaceted. Not only were its residents meant to be reformed in terms of abiding by the laws of man, but their religious spirit was also to be reformed as part of the country's Protestant lineage.

As for the concept of the juvenile detention center in particular, some institutions really took the idea of parens patriae to heart. As surrogate caretakers, many juvenile detention facilities sought to provide for their resident minors on all counts, including educating them in the hopes of immunizing them against the ills of society. Thus, a juvenile detention center might have been referred to in the past as a "reformatory school."

The legacy of detention centers as places of learning is one of decidedly mixed success, as curricula were not subject to today's more rigorous standards and some schools even lost sight of their educational goals in trying to maintain disciplinarian sensibilities. To some extent, though, detention centers still provide educative resources and other amenities.

Another critical mission of juvenile detention that was prominent in past years and, though to a lesser extent, is focused on in more recent times in the United States is the idea of vocational training. Granted, school-age education was still of primary importance among centers, but in terms of job and life skills, some heads of facilities saw a mandate to attend to these concerns.

Probably the most famous of these centers, which was not actually a juvenile detention center but nonetheless had all the elements of a juvenile reformatory, was the Elmira Reformatory, founded in and helmed by Zebulon Brockway in 1876. The Reformatory, which provided vocational classes, physical activity and education to its delinquent male inhabitants, is remembered by some for its contributions to differentiating between adult and juvenile criminals. However, reports also suggest Brockway ruled Elmira with an iron fist, often keeping inmates in line through acts of violence.

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