Chicago’s 5th Gift to the World

Originally uploaded by officergleason.

Gift Number 6: Juvenile Justice

For the next few days, the Metroblogging sites around the globe will be unveiling seven gifts their cities share with the world – one gift a day for seven days.

In 1899 Cook County convened the world’s first court for children. This was a civil court designed to help families provide direction for their children without involving a legal system that treated children adults. Historically speaking, this is a mind-blowing event. Prior to this court, in regards to criminal matters (actually, in all matters), children were treated like adults. This includes incarcerating kids with adults. For instance scenes like this were regular.

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While the Juvenile Court is technically the domain of county level government, this was Chicago’s gift to the world. Why? Women like Jane Addams. Chicago in the 1890s was at the forefront of progressive ideals, and women like Addams used Chicago as a staging ground. Keep in mind that at this point in US History, Chicago was the second largest city in the country. Jane Addams lobbied, in Springfield, for the creation of a juvenile court. Chicago was the city of choice, given the presence of Hull House. But those are posts for a different history lesson.

Most countries today have some form or Juvenile Justice system, culminating in the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Keep in mind that the roots of that convention started here in 1899.

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