The case of O’Connell v. Turner deals with the legislatures power to pass a law that made it legal for youths to be detained and sent to reform school without them being convicted of a crime. In that state of Illinois, a law was on the books that gave a judge the power to send someone to reform school if he was between six and sixteen and the judge believed him to be vagrant, destitute of proper parental care, growing up in mendicancy, ignorance, idleness or vice (People v. Turner, 1870). At issue in the case was the detention of Turner, a youth under sixteen, in a reform school because a judge believed that he was a danger of becoming a criminal. In the case, the court found that this power to imprison minors for misfortune was contrary to the constitution that requires that people receive due process of law and the minor child who had been ordered to be sent to a reform school was freed to the custody of his father.
This verdict was contrary to that of the earlier case of Ex parte Crouse in which a court ruled that a minor child who had not committed a crime could be sent to a house of refuse against the wishes of her father for being unruly (Faqs.org, 2016). At the time of the verdict, the ruling had little impact on how juveniles were sent to reform school. In fact, many courts ignored the ruling (Criminallaw.uslegal.com, 2016). One reason that the verdict was ignored by the courts could have been that it failed to address alternative measures that could be taken to prevent juveniles form going down the wrong path; thus, courts may have felt that without an alternative, reform school was the best answer to dealing with very wayward youth.
Later rulings such as Commonwealth v. Fisher in 1905 allowed the court to institute longer sentences for children who committed minor crimes that the sentences that an adult could receive because the courts believed that it was in the best interest of the children. Today, however, minors tend to receive more lenient sentences for the commission of crimes due to the fact that they are considered to be less mentally culpable based on their age. This change in the way the juvenile justice system started with the case of Kent v. United States in 1966. This is the case that is said to have established the juvenile justice system in this country.
- Criminallaw.uslegal.com,. (2016). Juvenile Case History – Juvenile System – Criminal Law.
Retrieved 5 February 2016, from http://criminallaw.uslegal.com/juvenile-system/juvenile-case-history/
- Faqs.org,. (2016). Ex Parte C rouse – Encyclopedia of Children and Childhood in History and
Society. Retrieved 5 February 2016, from: http://www.faqs.org/childhood/Co-Fa/Ex-Parte-Crouse.html.
- State of Illinois, ex rel. Michael O’Connell v. Robert Turner, 55 Ill. 280; 1870 Ill. LEXIS 355