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History of Juvenile Justice Reform

            The history of the juvenile justice system is long and winding. As society evolved and nations developed, perspectives regarding children changed drastically. In the 17th century, for example, children tended to be regarded as "little adults". Rather than being carefully educated and protected from the more unsavory aspects of life, children "learned their roles and expectations by wandering through the world of adults. They played adult games, performed adult jobs, dressed like adults, and basically led adult lives from a very early age," [ CITATION May12 l 1033 ]. It makes sense, then, that they were held accountable for their actions in the same manner that adults were. With the progression of society, however, the concept of "childhood" began to emerge, and eventually led to the formation of the juvenile justice system. .
             The idea that the very young are unable to understand the difference between right and wrong is not a new one. William Blackstone, a prominent English lawyer in the 18th century, tackled this issue in his text Commentaries on the Laws of England. .
             Published in the later part of the 18th century, the text attempts to differentiate between adults and children in a legal sense. He uses the term the term "infant" to describe children too young to understand the severity of their actions and divides youth in several different stages of culpability. It should be noted that Blackstone's use of the term "infant" does not strictly refer to age as it does in today's common use, but rather refers to the state of mind of the youth in question. Blackstone states: The capacity of doing ill, or contracting guilt, is not so much measured by years and days, as by the strength of the delinquent's understanding and judgement Under seven years of age indeed an infant cannot be guilty of felony but at eight years old he maybe be guilty of felony.

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