Open Access Senior Thesis
Bachelor of Arts
© 2019 Greer B Levin
Juvenile justice reforms in America today closely resemble the ones that occurred over a century ago. The reforms of both eras aim to separate juveniles from adults and emphasize rehabilitation over punishment. Why is policy repeating itself? In search of an answer, I look to a monumental series of liberal Supreme Court decisions made in the 1960s that constituted what is now known as the Civil Rights Era’s “due process revolution.” In these cases, the Supreme Court provided juveniles with procedural protections in attempt to prevent the manifestation of racial bias in the juvenile court. It is commonly agreed upon that the due process revolution failed in its mission to protect minority youth. However, scholars are divided on why it failed. Some claim that states simply did not implement the protections properly. Others argue that a conservative backlash obstructed their proper implementation. In this thesis, I put forth that the decisions themselves — specifically, Kent v. United States and In Re Gault — criminalized youth by mistakenly presuming that racism could be regulated out of the court by enhanced procedures of due process. The liberal decisions made in Kent and Gault ultimately paved the way for the conservative carceral agenda of the late twentieth century and subjected minority youth to unprecedented punitive policy. I refer to Naomi Murakawa’s “racial innocence” theory to illuminate this interpretation of events and suggest that communities look inwards for alternatives to institutional reform.
Levin, Greer, "The Cost of Racial Innocence in Kent v. United States and In re Gault: How Liberals Created America's Juvenile "Superpredator"" (2019). Scripps Senior Theses. 1354.