The rise of industrialization in the second half of the nineteenth century led to many changes in the American social fabric. The population expanded, poverty spread, and crime became a bigger problem. The legal system became an important means for policing people in American communities.
Children had been prosecuted in American courts since their earliest days. In fact, children in the eighteenth century had been subject to the death penalty. In the early nineteenth century, reformers felt that the law dealt too harshly with children. They created special schools where children could be reformed rather than punished. Judges could sentence children who had committed crimes to go to these schools until they reached adulthood. In the early twentieth century, juvenile delinquency was removed from the penal (or criminal) code and separate courts were established for juvenile and family matters. Children are no longer considered to be legally accountable for their actions in the same way adults are. Judges today are required to consider what would be least restrictive when deciding punishments for juveniles.
What does these documents tell us about social problems that existed at the turn of the twentieth century?
Check for Understanding
- Students write a paragraph answering the essential question.
- Students discuss how these documents relate to what they have read in their textbook on urban life in the Progressive Era.