policy implications for how to fix “the problem.” Although there is period-specific variation in the understanding of causal influences, the juvenile justice system has followed identifiable cycles.
The state of Missouri has been strongly influenced by legal thinking on juvenile justice and delinquency. Like most states in the early part of the 20th century, juveniles were held in gender-segregated training facilities (Abrams, 2003). The state opened two facilities in 1889: Boonville held males, and Chillicothe females. The institutions were run as paramilitary organizations, and solitary confinement and other isolation techniques were used for discipline. Reports of violence were rampant. In 1948, two youth were killed in the Boonville facility. At the peak custody level, Boonville housed 675 youth.
During this time, the courts began to take a more active role in affecting the juvenile justice processes. In 1967, the U.S. Supreme Court extended the rights of juveniles through In re Gault and a series of high-profile cases. Similarly, in 1957, the Missouri legislature passed the Unified Juvenile Court Act. Under the act, the juvenile court was now given jurisdiction over all cases related to delinquency and status offenses, abuse and neglect, and adoption. Specifically, the act required the court to consider the least restrictive alternative in punishment and to stress the need for reduced out-of-home placement. One of the central proponents, Judge Robert G.J. Hoester of St. Louis City, argued that the new act was bold and made the court a “treatment center rather than a punishment center” (Abrams, 2003).
This legislation paved the way for constructing the W.E. Sears Youth Center in Poplar Bluff. This was the first dormitory-style juvenile correctional facility in the state and was designed around the positive peer culture model (Abrams, 2003). Two additional camps were opened in 1962 and 1964 to address the crowding and violence associated with the congregate facilities. This new model of small group staffing was to serve as an experiment until funds for a larger training school could be procured. Calls were made by the Missouri Law Enforcement Assistance Council, Attorney General John C. Danforth, and Governor Kit Bond to reform the juvenile system. However, in 1971, a bill to provide $3 million in funding to support the building of a new training school was defeated (Abrams, 2003). Although the original bill was defeated, Tim Decker, the current director of the Division of Youth Services (DYS), argues that the small pilot programs were instrumental in securing eventual legislator support. The pilot programs required little initial financial support but provided valuable evidence to frontline workers, legislators, and others that the new approach would work (Decker, 2010).
In 1974, under the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act, the federal government mandated that no juvenile could be detained in an institution for criminal offenders if she or he was not guilty of criminal