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In this essay, the authors seek to dispel the myth that the juvenile court was never intended to deal with serious and violent offenders; a myth that has largely been unchallenged, especially in the mainstream media, and one that critics of the juvenile court have used to undermine its legitimacy. The discovery of homicide data from the Chicago police department from the early twentieth century, the era in which modern juvenile justice came of age, provides us with new historical date with which to put this dangerous myth to rest, by showing that the nation’s model juvenile court—the Cook County Juvenile Court—did hear many cases of juvenile homicide. In addition, the database has helped us to reconstruct important parts of the overall legal response to juvenile homicide in this period. We have discovered that the early twentieth century legal response to juvenile homicide was far more flexible than today’s approach, and that there were more institutional checks in the system to protect children from overly aggressive prosecution of their cases in the criminal justice system.

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92 J. Crim. L. & Criminology 641 (2002).