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Who Gets a Childhood?

Race and Juvenile Justice in Twentieth-Century Texas

William S. Bush

Publication Year: 2010

Using Texas as a case study for understanding change in the American juvenile justice system over the past century, William S. Bush tells the story of three cycles of scandal, reform, and retrenchment, each of which played out in ways that tended to extend the privileges of a protected childhood to white middle- and upper-class youth, while denying those protections to blacks, Latinos, and poor whites.

On the forefront of both progressive and “get tough” reform campaigns, Texas has led national policy shifts in the treatment of delinquent youth to a surprising degree. Changes in the legal system have included the development of courts devoted exclusively to young offenders, the expanded legal application of psychological expertise, and the rise of the children’s rights movement. At the same time, broader cultural ideas about adolescence have also changed. Yet Bush demonstrates that as the notion of the teenager gained currency after World War II, white, middle-class teen criminals were increasingly depicted as suffering from curable emotional disorders even as the rate of incarceration rose sharply for black, Latino, and poor teens. Bush argues that despite the struggles of reformers, child advocates, parents, and youths themselves to make juvenile justice live up to its ideal of offering young people a second chance, the story of twentieth-century juvenile justice in large part boils down to “the exclusion of poor and nonwhite youth from modern categories of childhood and adolescence.”

Published by: University of Georgia Press

Series: Politics and Culture in the Twentieth-Century South


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pp. ix-xii

This book has been nearly a decade in the making, and I have accumulated several debts along the way.
My deepest gratitude goes to David Tanenhaus, my colleague at the University of Nevada– Las Vegas for three years. David read countless chapter draft s, provided thoughtful feedback, and more than anyone encouraged me when I felt overwhelmed...

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Introduction. Race, Childhood, and Juvenile Justice History

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pp. 1-6

On February 16, 2007, an article on the Texas Observer Web site exposed a grue-some sex abuse scandal at the West Texas State School, a juvenile corrections facility in the remote town of Pyote, near Odessa. Over the next several weeks, news reports revealed that the school’s assistant superintendent, Ray Brookins, and its principal, John Paul Hernandez, had coerced sexual favors from several juvenile ...

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One. The Other Lost Generation: Reform and Resistance in the Juvenile Training Schools, 1907– 1929

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pp. 7-41

In February 1927, Jimmy Jones, a sixteen- year- old inmate at the Texas State Juvenile Training School in Gatesville, convinced two parolees to smuggle letters to his father out of the institution.1 Jimmy’s odyssey into Texas juvenile justice had begun the previous October, when he was charged with “highway robbery with fi rearms.”2 That day, aft er working on the family farm, Jimmy had gone on a drinking...

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Two. Socializing Delinquency: Child Welfare, Mental Health, and the Critique of Institutions, 1929– 1949

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pp. 42-70

On September 1, 1941, the Texas Board of Control simultaneously fired the superintendents of both the boys’ and the girls’ training schools. The move came in the aftermath of yet another round of abuse scandals, which had resulted in legislative investigations and bad publicity in the late 1930s. However, the immediate cause for the firings was the publication of two audit reports commissioned by ...

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Three. Juvenile Rehabilitation and the Color Line: The Training School for Black Delinquent Girls, 1943– 1950

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pp. 71-92

At the very moment when the training schools were coming under attack in Texas, a decades- long push to open an institution for black delinquent girls finally achieved success with the opening of the Brady State School for Negro Girls in 1947. Located at a reconverted German prisoner- of-war camp in west central Texas, the Brady school appeared to respond in part to calls for equal treatment for delinquent black ...

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Four. James Dean and Jim Crow: The Failure of Reform and the Racialization of Delinquency in the 1950s

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pp. 93-125

On February 6, 1949, Texas Governor Beauford H. Jester and the seven members of the Texas Training School Code Commission held a much-anticipated press conference in Austin (see figure 8). After eighteen months of study, the commission had written a bill that proposed to go far beyond its original mandate to repair the state’s broken juvenile training schools. With great fanfare, it announced plans ...

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Five. “Hard to Reach”: The Politics of Delinquency Prevention in Postwar Houston

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pp. 126-149

On the afternoon of December 6, 1956, representatives from Houston’s juvenile court met with the TSYDC board in Austin. It was a moment of crisis for the TSYDC. Several of its key administrative personnel had resigned in recent months, while the Gatesville superintendent, Herman Sapier, had asked to be relieved of his duties. Much of the discussion that morning had revolved around a proposal in the ...

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Six. Circling the Wagons: The Struggle over the Texas Youth Council, 1965–1971

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pp. 150-172

On March 22, 1961, Bert Kruger Smith, a consultant with the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health at the University of Texas, took a guided tour of the Gatesville State Schools for Boys training school complex.1 To her own surprise, Smith was generally impressed with what she saw. Although overcrowding remained a problem, seven distinct units housed and schooled boy inmates according to age, behavior, ...

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Seven. Creating a Right to Treatment: Morales v. Turman, 1971– 1988

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pp. 173-202

In July 1971, each of the TYC’s roughly 2,500 training school inmates received a sealed envelope. In it were a questionnaire and a cover letter from Judge William Wayne Justice, of the Eastern District of Texas, presiding in the case of Morales v. Turman. The letter explained that the TYC was standing trial and requested that inmates complete the enclosed survey. Inmates were assured that their responses ...

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Epilogue. The New American Dilemma

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pp. 203-208

The summer of 2002 found the state of Texas far removed from the reforms envisioned in Morales v. Turman. Instead, the state had attracted bitter condemnations from national and international critics for its administration of the death penalty to juvenile offenders. That summer, the state executed three African American men—Napoleon Beazley, T. J. Jones, and Toronto Patterson—for crimes they ...


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pp. 209-254


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pp. 255-259

E-ISBN-13: 9780820337623
E-ISBN-10: 0820337625
Print-ISBN-13: 9780820329833
Print-ISBN-10: 0820329835

Page Count: 276
Illustrations: 19 b&w photos, 15 tables, 1 map, 1 figure
Publication Year: 2010

Series Title: Politics and Culture in the Twentieth-Century South
Series Editor Byline: Bryant Simon and Jane Dailey, Series Editors See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 676697516
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Who Gets a Childhood?

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Subject Headings

  • Juvenile justice, Administration of -- Texas -- History -- 20th century.
  • Discrimination in juvenile justice administration -- Texas -- History -- 20th century.
  • Juvenile delinquents -- Texas -- History -- 20th century.
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