This Note will argue that, despite the fact that adjudication as a status offender has the potential to lead to punitive outcomes, the rehabilitative rationale of parens patriae that lies behind the status offender designation ensures that juveniles charged under this category are not afforded the procedural protections that they are due under the Constitution’s Due Process Clause. This conundrum—that the rehabilitative rationale meant to protect juveniles actually leaves them more vulnerable to punishment—is not confined to the status offender context. Instead, the juvenile system as a whole suffers from the failures that result from promises of rehabilitation made by a largely punitive system. And despite Supreme Court rulings that have provided due process to juvenile delinquents, the juvenile system’s treatment of status offenders illustrates that any promise of rehabilitation from the juvenile justice system is functionally a dead letter. As a result, status offenders should not simply be afforded due process protections, but instead should be removed completely from a system that claims not to punish them and cannot successfully rehabilitate them.

Part I of this Note will provide a brief history of the juvenile justice system, its initial rehabilitative goals, and how these rehabilitative goals have survived despite legal and social shifts. Part II will discuss the tenuous position that status offenders occupy in the juvenile system and the punitive implications that result from this position. Part III will discuss the due process issues that stem from the juvenile system’s treatment of status offenders. Finally, Part IV will discuss how the juvenile system’s treatment of status offenders typifies the problems created by the juvenile system’s adoption of the parens patriae rationale and why this requires that status offenders be removed from the juvenile system altogether. Part IV will then discuss what is likely to be the most successful replacement for juvenile justice system jurisdiction: the use of preexisting community resources that are better equipped to accomplish rehabilitative goals.



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