Contemporary Crises

, Volume 13, Issue 2, pp 163–187 | Cite as

The ideological bases and functions of contemporary juvenile law reform: The New York State experience

  • Edmund F. McGarrell


This paper reviews dominant crime control ideologies and relates these ideological assumptions to juvenile justice reform. Using New York State as a case study, the ideological basis of recent juvenile justice legislation is then reviewed through analysis of legislative debates. The debates indicate that the legal reforms represent the ascendance of conservative crime control ideology. The paper then examines the functions and effects of crime control ideology. It is argued that liberal and conservative crime control ideologies are part of a more general institutionalized thought structure dominant in American society. Key elements of this institutionalized thought structure include an emphasis on individualism, formal equality, and rationality. The net effect of the legal reforms, however, appears to be an increase in substantive inequality in the form of extended state control over poor, urban, minority youths. The paper concludes by suggesting that these ideologies function to offer apparent responses to the problem of crime in society without threatening existing distributions of power and wealth.


State Experience International Relation Formal Equality Juvenile Justice Extended State 
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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • Edmund F. McGarrell
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Criminal JusticeIndiana UniversityBloomingtonUSA

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