Researcher ORCID Identifier

Graduation Year


Date of Submission


Document Type

Campus Only Senior Thesis


Best Senior Thesis in History

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Reader 1

Lily Geismer

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This thesis explores how federal and state policies throughout the 20th century criminalized adolescents’ mental health struggles and/or illnesses by locking them in carceral institutions, such as state hospitals, reformatory schools, and juvenile detention facilities. There, officials failed to provide adequate care for their mental and reproductive health needs. Although medical professionals, academics, and families spoke more about the link between trauma and court involvement in the early 2000s, government policies and institutional practices did not change to improve youth experiences in juvenile courts. Instead, government and court officials worked within the criminal legal system to help court-involved adolescents by establishing juvenile mental health courts and girls’ courts/commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) courts. Through a close analysis of these reforms, this thesis examines the systematic failures of the education and healthcare systems, which continue to lead many adolescents to juvenile courts. By using interviews with judges and analyzing archival materials, this thesis highlights how juvenile collaborative courts continue to operate within the punitive framework of the criminal legal system.

This thesis is restricted to the Claremont Colleges current faculty, students, and staff.