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Ronald L. Boostrom,
Criminal Justice Program,
San Diego State University.

(Reprinted from the proceedings of a special conference
HUMANIST, April 17-19, 1980, sponsored by The Institute for
Humanistic Studies, M.E. Grenander, Director, State
University of New York at Albany, pp. 369-378.)

The delinquency control industry, which has become a
government controlled and subsidized big business in this
country, provides one of the best examples of the
institutionalization of the ideology of the therapeutic
state. As Thomas Szasz has pointed out, this ideology has
mystified social control in the modern corporate state,
presenting increased state intervention and control as help
and rehabilitation. Recent developments in "delinquency
prevention and control" have extended this ideology through
the use of new technologies and strategies of early
intervention with "pre-delinquents." This has served to
solidify the control exercised by agents of the therapeutic
state, further mystifying their anti-libertarian intentions.

     This paper will apply insights developed in the works
of Thomas Szasz, especially those developed in his book on
the drug control industry -- Ceremonial Chemistry, to an
analysis of the evolution of "juvenile justice" and
"delinquency prevention" in the United States. The
delinquency control industry, like the drug control
industry, has become a government controlled and subsidized
big business in this country. Nothing is more central to the
maintenance of social order than the regulatory mechanisms
employed to control and socialize our children.

     Through financing the direction provided by agencies
such as the office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency
Prevention in the Justice Department; the National Institute
of Mental Health; and the National Council on Crime and
Delinquency; certain programs, strategies, and ideologies
are developed and sustained in reaction to the problem of
delinquency. Juvenile justice and delinquency prevention
programs and strategies provide one of the best examples of
the institutionalization of the ideology of the therapeutic
state's extent. The delinquency control industry also
provides one of the best examples we have available to us of
the attempt to mystify social control as help and
rehabilitation. In addition, it provides a good example of
conflicts between various interest groups over who will have
the power to define and control the processing of offenders
in our society.

     Thomas Szasz has made the point that "the most
important business of every society is the regulation of the
behavior of its members."(Ceremonial Chemistry; NY; Anchor
Books; 1975; p.20) He has also made the point that in the
modern world, as in the ancient world, Church, Medicine, and
State collaborate in maintaining social order by regulating
personal conduct. In the therapeutic state, politics and
morality are smuggled into medical/clinical social controls
under the guise of science.

     Nothing is more central to the maintenance of social
order than the regulatory mechanisms employed to control and
socialize our children. Control over the socialization
process; which is institutionalized in agencies such as the
family, the church, the school, recreation programs for
children and youth, delinquency prevention programs, and the
juvenile justice system; is a key variable in the
reproduction or the change of our social order and social

     Those who wish to reproduce existing social relations,
because it serves their interest to do so, want to control
the socialization process and the institutions of
socialization. It is in their interest to mask their
interest in such control by appearing to offer help to
children and youth which will also benefit society as a

     The ideology of the therapeutic state; and the
coalition of moral, political, economic, and medical
interests it supports and sustains; has been an effective
vehicle in this century for the mystification of social
control and for the "benevolent" control of the
socialization process. The therapeutic state has been
expanded and legitimized through our social policy toward
children and through the creation of new institutions for
the socialization of children. These institutions have
evolved over the past one hundred and fifty years in the
United States and they have been vehicles in this century,
until recently, for the elaboration and expansion of the
therapeutic state.

     Those who had a stake in the elaboration and expansion
of the therapeutic state were able to use the agencies of
socialization for their purposes for the following reasons:
children's rights have remained relatively undeveloped in
our legal system  children and youth ceased to be a valued
source of labor power in our society  children and youth
have been viewed and treated as incomplete and incompetent
human beings. This ideology and the control strategies it
supported assumed that children and youth are incapable of
exercising self-control in the face of temptations presented
by modern society. In the absence of a capacity for self-
control, control by the modern scientific expert versed in
medical/clinical diagnosis and treatment of juvenile
deviance was promoted within the juvenile justice system.
The juvenile justice system promised that it could prevent
delinquency in our society and, thus, it gained legitimacy
for a time as an instrument of the public welfare acting for
the common good. Once it established legitimacy in the
public mind, it provided a fertile testing ground for the
assumptions and strategies of the therapeutic state. For the
most part, the public remained satisfied to give control over
problem chiildren and youth of all kinds to the agents of
juvenile justice in order to get them out of their hair and,
hopefully, out of their sight.

      Prior to the Jacksonian era in American history,
juvenile deviants were either subject to the criminal law
and the same criminal sanctions as adults found guilty of
crime or were subject only to informal social controls
exercised by parents and the local community. This changed,
to some extent, with the advent of the first juvenile
reformatory in America -- the New York House of Refuge, a
state-chartered but privately operated facility which was
founded in 1825. This marked the beginning of a new policy
of exclusion, separate diagnosis, and special treatment for
juvenile offenders. This development was emulated by other
major urban centers on the Eastern seaboard and its
assumptions and separate system of treatment for juvenile
offenders became a model for future developments in juvenile

     The act of incorporation of the house of refuge
contained the first statutory definition of juvenile
delinquency in our history. This statute, like others to
follow, defined the special status of juvenile delinquency
to include youthful criminal offenders, youngsters who were
seen to be in danger of leading an immoral or uncontrolled
life if left to their own devices, and dependent and
neglected children.

     This new institution and the laws creating it:
* focused attention on the institutional control of the
  poor and unorganized working class.
* created the first separate system of incarceration
  for juvenile offenders.
* mandated correction, rehabilitation, and reform of
  delinquent offenders as the goal of juvenile justice.
* established statutory definitions of delinquency to
  include criminal behavior, "status offenses," and dependent
  and neglected children.
* established the use of the indeterminate sentence as
  a managerial tool.
* gave state-chartered managers (representing private
  philanthropical societies) the same power over children that
  parents had traditionally exercised, establishing the basis
  for the concept of parens patriae which was used at the end
  of the century to rationalize the power and control of the
  juvenile court over youthful offenders.

     The juvenile reformatories were the birthplace of the
delinquent.  Reformatory managers began to collect
biographical information about the background of juvenile
offenders to be used for reform and explanation of the
etiology of delinquency. (See David J. Rothman, THE
DISCOVERY OF THE ASYLUM; Boston: Little, Brown; 1971) Dr.
Szasz has stated that pioneering eighteenth-century asylums
were the first factories for manufacturing madmen and
renaming badness as madness. In like manner, the new
reformatories were the factories for manufacturing
delinquents and renaming badness as delinquency. "The
delinquent is an institutional product." (Michel Foucault,
DISCIPLINE AND PUNISH; NY: Pantheon, 1977; p.301)

     Michel Foucault has pointed out that the creation of
these institutions in modern Western societies was part of a
general movement toward domination, observation, and
enforced discipline promoted by agents and agencies of
normality in the new industrial society. "As medicine
psychology, education, public assistance, 'social work'
assume an ever greater share of the powers of supervision
and assessment, the penal apparatus will be able, in turn,
to become medicalized, psychologized, educationalized..."
(Ibid.; p.306)

     As these disciplinary functions become well established
and legitimized in society, the process of manufacturing
delinquents is no longer confined by the walls of the
reformatory. Like madness, delinquency burst through the
walls of the asylum by the beginning of the twentieth
century. It "was being discovered in clinics and doctors'
offices, in literature and art (i.e. Huckleberry Finn), and
in the 'psychopathology of everyday life.'" (Szasz, p. 4). All
of the earlier principles and practices which began in the
Jacksonian era were built upon and elaborated by Progressive
reformers at the turn of the twentieth century. They took
them into the community where they discovered ever-more
problems of delinquency and juvenile deviance. They created
new social control devices such as the compulsory public
school with its inevitable truant officer, the juvenile
court with its diagnostic clinic, probation, parole, and
settlement [halfway?] houses; all designed to spread the
logic and methods of the "carceral" institutions of the new
industrial state and the ideology of the therapeutic state
throughout the community of potential deviants.

     Once reformers were successful in establishing the
special status of the juvenile delinquent in law and policy
and once special institutions were in place to reinforce the
special status and special treatment, juveniles lost the
protection of due process of law which had been
traditionally available to criminal offenders. Efforts to
reform individual delinquents and to assuage anxiety about
social change through special treatment of the juvenile
deviant undercut traditional liberal concern for civil
liberties and the need to protect the individual from the
power of state intervention. A new faith in therapeutic
scientific management as a solution to the problem of
delinquency was introduced during the Progressive era which
was inimical to basic libertarian principles and
philosophies espoused by our Founding Fathers and contained
in the founding documents of this nation. Progressive reform
programs and practices continued to dominate twentieth-
century juvenile justice. However, they have recently come
under attack for their lack of attention to legality and
their correctional, rather than appreciative, assumptions.

     As a result of disillusionment among a new wave of
reformers with the Progressive legacy, some changes have
begun to occur in recent years in juvenile justice in the
United States.  A new "get-tough" policy for juvenile
criminals has introduced due process and determinate
sentences to the juvenile court (although determinate
sentencing policy has yet to be instituted at this point in
most juvenile justice systems).  The discovery that juvenile
"status offenders" were doing more time in lock-up
facilities than were juveniles who had committed offenses
that would be considered crimes for adults (a direct result
of the misplaced optimism about reform by the agents of the
therapeutic state) has led to a movement for the
decriminalization, decarceration, and diversion of status
offenders out of the juvenile justice system.

     New strategies of delinquency control and prevention
designed to remove status offenders from the jurisdiction of
the traditional juvenile justice system have served to widen
the net of control for agents of the therapeutic state.
These reforms are accompanied by a humanitarian-appearing
concern for removing large numbers of children and youth
from confinement and punishment.  They have promoted early
intervention, screening, testing, drug therapy, and behavior
modification in the schools.  They have liberated the
ideologists of the therapeutic state from many of the former
economic and legal constraints.

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