The earliest juvenile courts were all confidential and the proceedings were closed to the public. Over time, that changed but a movement is underway in some states to protect kids’ privacy.
As tales of teenage ‘superpredator’ criminals took root in the 1980s and 1990s, states started enacting laws that imposed harsher penalties on children.
And as those laws were codified, the world wide web came online, giving anyone with a home computer increasingly easy access to court records.
Those two factors helped create a patchwork system in the United States that puts the confidentiality of juvenile records – one of the fundamental aspects of juvenile justice – at risk, and that system has largely remained in place even as statistics show juvenile crime rates dropping dramatically in the past 20 years.