The Federal Juvenile System

63 Pages Posted: 3 Feb 2023

See all articles by Esther Hong

Esther Hong

Arizona State University (ASU) - Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law

Date Written: February 3, 2023


With very few exceptions, the federal juvenile system has been ignored by legal scholars since its inception in 1938. Yet, this understudied system has much to offer in this current age. It offers a lens to better understand and address the pathologies of excessive prosecutorial power and punitiveness that plague our country’s other criminal and juvenile legal systems. It also exemplifies and provides insights on limiting the carceral state.

This Article provides a detailed analysis of the federal juvenile system, situates its place in the overall American carceral landscape, and highlights its relevance to contemporary criminal and juvenile law movements. With only fifty-five youths prosecuted nationwide in the federal juvenile system in 2021, this system stands apart for its relative absence of state carceral reach and its accompanying pathologies. And by using the federal juvenile system as a foil for the federal criminal system — which grew the carceral state and amplified its harms — one can gain better insight into reducing the reach and attendant pathologies of the carceral state.

Keywords: criminal law, juvenile law, carceral state, federal criminal law, federal juvenile law

Suggested Citation

Hong, Esther, The Federal Juvenile System (February 3, 2023). 102 Boston University Law Review 2025 (2022), Available at SSRN:

Esther Hong (Contact Author)

Arizona State University (ASU) - Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law ( email )

Box 877906
Tempe, AZ 85287-7906
United States

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