that 67.8% were rearrested within three years.4 This zero tolerance attitude towards criminal
behavior has dramatically affected the way juveniles are treated in the criminal justice system.5
If getting tough on crime is not the answer, the incredibly complex question becomes: What is
an appropriate response? This Article advocates for a moderate Progressive approach,6 contending
that juvenile violent behavior is not the root of the problem; rather, it is the fruit—the result of a
combination of deeper issues, not all of which can be fully explored in the limited scope of this
discussion. This Article argues that juveniles need positive role models, cohesive families, and
community support in order to properly develop cognitively and relationally.7 In contrast, this
country’s youth are thrust into one of the most violent communities in the United States when they
are incarcerated, deprived of positive role models, and cut off from family support, all of which
have detrimental effects on a juvenile’s cognitive development.8
In the words of Marc Klaas:
We will win the war on crime when we are ready to invest our time, energy and tax
dollars in America’s most vulnerable children, so that they never become
America’s most wanted adults. Suggesting that we can win the war against violent
crime solely by building more prisons is like saying that we can win the war against
cancer by building more cemeteries.9
The solution to juvenile violent crime is not in our prisons—it is in the communities that shape
and mold America’s youth.
Part II of this Article provides a broad historical overview of the legal system’s treatment of
juveniles.10 Part III then discusses the conditions in adult and juvenile facilities followed by Part
IV, which explores various jurisprudential theories, applying them to the problem of juvenile
crime.11 Finally, Part V examines the North Lawndale community, located on Chicago’s west side,
contending that juveniles are only truly rehabilitated when immersed in a community of people
who truly care.12
4 ALEXIA D. COOPER ET AL., RECIDIVISM OF PRISONERS RELEASED IN 30 STATES IN 2005: PATTERNS FROM 2005 TO
2010, (U.S. Dept. of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2014),
5 See supra note 2 and accompanying text (explaining that politicians were under pressure by the public to adopt a
harsher stance toward juvenile crime).
6 The Author uses “moderate progressive” to refer to a middle ground between the Progressive mindset, which ignored
normal adult criminal procedures and applied individualized discretion in every case, and the “adult time for adult
crime” attitude of the 1980s and 1990s, which treated juveniles exactly the same as adults in terms of culpability and
7 See infra Part V (offering North Lawndale as an example of a community that is committed to rehabilitating its
8 See infra notes 44–57 and accompanying text (describing the deplorable conditions in adult and juvenile facilities).
9 PETER ELIKANN, SUPERPREDATORS: THE DEMONIZATION OF OUR CHILDREN BY THE LAW 806 (1999) (quoting Marc
Klaas in the Foreword).
10 See infra Part II.
11 See infra Part III—IV.