Young offenders have historically presented special problems for the criminal justice system. The idea that juveniles who violate the law should be treated differently from adult offenders originated at the end of the nineteenth century, when Chicago established a separate juvenile court and began to employ the common-law doctrine of parens patriae to protect children from themselves and their parents. James O. Finckenauer, Juvenile Delinquency and Corrections - The Gap Between Theory and Practice 116 (1984). Within twenty-five years of the passage of the Illinois Juvenile Court Act of 1899, all but two states had established specialized courts for children. Id.
A suppression strategy of vigorous law enforcement in dealing with gangs emerged in the 1980's. This involved identification of gang members, special case management, increased law enforcement, increased incarceration, and better liaison between law enforcement agencies. The primary mission of prosecutors of gang offenders is their successful prosecution, conviction, and incarceration. It is believed that increased prison terms have reduced violent crime ten to fifteen percent by isolating offenders from the community and discouraging others from committing crimes. Id. The focus has been on the prosecution of the most serious gang offenders. The rate of conviction and incarceration has increased. Id. Task forces made up of specially trained local, state and federal law enforcement officers, working together with prosecutors who are involved early in the investigations in a vertical prosecution approach, have proven effective in reducing gang violence.
Some efforts proving effective in deterring youth violence include community organization, information sharing, community watch and graffiti cleanup campaigns, cooperation with social service agencies and counseling programs, and school tutoring and job opportunity programs. Irving A. Spergel and G. D. Curry, The National Youth Gang Survey: A Research and Development Process (1993). A vital need in preventing delinquent conduct includes strengthening the family in its primary responsibility of instilling moral values, and providing guidance and support to children. Id. It is important to support core social institutions, such as schools, churches, and community organizations in their roles of developing capable, mature, and responsible young people. Id. Prosecutors, as well as defense attorneys, should donate their time and efforts, whenever possible, to support community programs designed to deter young people from criminal involvement.