Date of Award

Winter 1985

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


The history of juvenile justice in the United States is largely a history of failed reform efforts. The most significant of these efforts was the establishment of the juvenile court at the turn of the century and the idea of "socialized" juvenile justice on which it was based. Because the objective was rehabilitation rather than punishment, constitutional rights applicable in criminal justice proceedings were deemed unnecessary. In response to a wave of criticism of "socialized justice," the "post-Gault era" of juvenile justice reform emerged in the early 1960's. These reforms promised both justice and help to juveniles in trouble.

The major question this dissertation seeks to answer is whether this most recent reform era fulfills its promises or shares the fate of earlier efforts. Using a case study approach, this dissertation examines post-Gault reform in Maine. The revision of the Maine Juvenile Code in 1977 exemplifies these reform efforts. An assessment of the juvenile justice system which emerged from the revision of the Code suggests strongly that post-Gault reform continues the pattern of failure.

Various explanations of the failure of juvenile justice reform are examined. Explanations most consistent with the evidence suggest that the reformist approach is fundamentally flawed.