skip navigation


Register for Latest Research

Stay Informed
Register with NCJRS to receive NCJRS's biweekly e-newsletter JUSTINFO and additional periodic emails from NCJRS and the NCJRS federal sponsors that highlight the latest research published or sponsored by the Office of Justice Programs.

NCJRS Abstract

The document referenced below is part of the NCJRS Virtual Library collection. To conduct further searches of the collection, visit the Virtual Library. See the Obtain Documents page for direction on how to access resources online, via mail, through interlibrary loans, or in a local library.


NCJ Number: 200190 Find in a Library
Title: Boyz to Men...and Back Again? Revisiting a Forgotten Experiment in Juvenile Justice
Journal: Judicature  Volume:86  Issue:5  Dated:March-April 2003  Pages:258-262
Author(s): Michael Willrich
Date Published: March 2003
Page Count: 5
Type: Historical Overview; Program/Project Description
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: The Boys' Court, which was founded in Chicago in 1914 and operated until 1969, was a radical innovation in American criminal justice; it operated as a specialized criminal branch of the Municipal Court of Chicago with exclusive jurisdiction over male defendants between the ages of 17 and 21.
Abstract: In felony cases, such as murder or armed robbery, the Boys' Court had the power to decide whether the State had a case strong enough to send to the grand jury. In all lesser classes of cases, the Boys' Court had complete jurisdiction to try and sentence offenders. "Juvenile-adults," as criminologists called this late-adolescent cohort, were in a legal limbo. They were too old for the juvenile court (its original jurisdiction ended at 17 years old), but they were too young to assume the full rights and duties of adult male citizens. Like the juvenile court, the Boys' Court was based in the progressive belief in "social responsibility for crime," i.e., the concept that socioeconomic environment or biological heredity contributed to criminal behavior. Although the Boys' Court lacked due process procedures and often committed defendants to indefinite periods in mental institutions, it fostered a rehabilitative ideal that was lacking in adult criminal courts. Despite recurring controversies about the court's perceived leniency with young male criminals, the Boys' Court was still going strong in the 1960's under Judge Saul A. Epton, who was dedicated to the court's mission of rehabilitation. Steve Drizin, a clinical associate professor of law, wants to see a version of the Boys' Court revived. Defendants charged with the most serious felonies would still go directly to a regular adult court, but other male juvenile-adults would go to a court that would be staffed, like the original court, with concerned judges and trained social service personnel. Strong relations would be established between the court and community social service agencies. The ideal court would have an employment bureau to help offenders, most of whom would likely be poor African-Americans and Latinos, find jobs. The primary difficulty in establishing a court similar to that of the Boys' Court would be community support and the sufficiency of community resources needed for rehabilitation. The long-term functioning of the original Boys' Court was based in broad and varied constituencies in Chicago. It remains to be seen whether such support could be marshaled for a Boys' Court under current public opinion and political climate.
Main Term(s): Juvenile processing
Index Term(s): Court of limited jurisdiction; Illinois; Juvenile rehabilitation; Young adult offenders
To cite this abstract, use the following link:

*A link to the full-text document is provided whenever possible. For documents not available online, a link to the publisher's website is provided. Tell us how you use the NCJRS Library and Abstracts Database - send us your feedback.