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The United States Dual Court System and Its Historical Developments


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The United States Dual Court System and its Historical Developments

The United States court system is divided between two administratively separate parts. The first was established in early colonial times. The original thirteen colonies had established their own individual court systems based off the English system (The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed., 2007). According to an article “Early Development of the United States Court System US Courts in the Early Republic” written by Martin Kelly “In 1789 Article Three of the US Constitution stated that "[t]he judicial Power of the United States, shall be vested in one supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish." (Kelly, 2012) ” This article of the US Constitution created the Federal Court System. Because each of the original colonies had an established court system, the two court systems evolved separately into today’s modern dual court system (Kelly, 2012). This essay will break down the major historical events in the United States Court system to include probation, parole, and juvenile courts and how they have transformed todays United States Dual court system.
In the late 19th century and early 20th century a social movement known as Progressivism had a strong hand in creating and molding the US Court systems. This movement primary goal toward the court systems was to change the thinking from retribution to rehabilitation (Net Industries, 2012). As the progressivism movement started to gain ground and the mindset shifted toward rehabilitation Boston, MA started to use an informal form of probation. Judges would release minor criminals into the custody of well-known members of society in hopes of rehabilitation (City of New York, 2012). In the late 19th century Massachusetts created a law that allowed the mayor of Boston to create the position of a probation officer, and in 1880s this authority was extended to the whole state. This statute was known as Mass. Probation Act of 1880 (Net Industries, 2012).
During the mid-19th century U.S. prisons were extremely over crowded. There was a strong need to make room for new offenders. American penal reformers knew of parole type reforms used in the European prison systems and referenced these systems to find a solution to their own problems (American Probation and Parole Association, 2010). In 1876 Zebulon Brockway a superintendent at a new youth reformatory, the Elmira Reformatory in New York created the first parole type system in the United States (Brown, 2007). Convicts would be released under supervision if the convict’s behavior was deemed good by the warden of the facility. Through this new system it would alleviate the overcrowding in prisons, encourage good behavior, and further focus our courts attentions on rehabilitation rather than retaliation (Net Industries, 2012).
As the progressivism movement focused on overcrowding and rehabilitation it also became aware of adult felons being incarcerated with juveniles and how that affected them. This fueled the creation of facilities strictly for children. The first of its kind was in 1825 known as the House of Refuge in Ney York (Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice, 2003). Progressivism was a child-centered movement, and juvenile justice became their center focus. In the 1890s powerful promoters of the progressivism moment pushed for the separation of juvenile offenders and their adult counterparts in the court systems (Net Industries, 2012). In 1899, Cook County, Illinois, established the first juvenile court. In 1925, only two states did not have a juvenile court system in place (Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice, 2003).
The progressive era from the late 19th century and early 20th century made many social and governmental changes in the United States. The Progressivism movement believed everyone could be rehabilitated into a productive member of society and a more intricate court system was needed (Net Industries, 2012). The creation of parole, probation, and the juvenile courts revolutionized the U.S. court systems. As the federal and state court systems coexist and work as separate entities, they make their own individual leaps and bounds; even though they work separately you can see the influences each has made on each other throughout history.

American Probation and Parole Association. (2010). Parole Historical Roots. Retrieved from
Brown, C. (2007). History Of The Parole System. Retrieved from
Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice. (2003, May). Juvenile Justice History. Retrieved from
City of New York. (2012). History of Probation. Retrieved from
Kelly, M. (2012). Early Development of the United States Court System. Retrieved from
Net Industries. (2012). Criminal Law Reform: Historical Development in the United States - Progressivism And Its Fruits. Retrieved from
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. (2007). court system in the United States. Retrieved from

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