Juvenile Justice System

Juvenile Justice System in the United States

Juvenile Justice Reform

Many states have recently embraced or are in the process of pursuing comprehensive juvenile justice reforms to protect public safety, hold offenders accountable, improve youth outcomes, and reduce taxpayer burdens associated with out-of-home placement. In addition to improving both public safety and outcomes for youth, states are seeking ways that these reforms can be self-financing through a redistribution of spending from more expensive facility costs to early intervention, diversion, and community-based programs.

The Obama Administration pursued efforts to improve the juvenile justice system and prioritize juvenile reentry, including supporting efforts to reduce recidivism and enhance post-juvenile systems education, job-training, parenting skills, counseling and health care.

  • In 2009, President Obama directed the Justice Department to launch the National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention (see below).
  • In January 2014, the Departments of Education and Justice released guidance to schools aimed at increasing school discipline policies that support improved behavior in students while minimizing the school to prison pipeline.
  • In June 2014, the Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention announced a suite of Smart on Juvenile Justice grants (see below).
  • In December 2014, the Departments of Education and Justice released guidance aimed at providing high-quality educational programming in juvenile justice secure care settings.

National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention

The Forum which brings together a network of communities and federal agencies to reduce youth violence and gang activity, share information, build local capacity and improve public safety.

Youth violence prevention is a top priority for Attorney General Eric Holder, Acting Assistant Attorney General Mary Lou Leary, and policymakers, practitioners, researchers, and community members across the nation. In spite of consistent decreases in juvenile violent crime arrests nationwide since 1994, many localities continue to seek information and strategies to better prevent and respond to youth violence. At the direction of President Obama, in 2010 the Departments of Justice and Education officially launched the National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention (the Forum).

The Forum aims to build a national conversation about youth and gang violence to increase awareness, drive action, and build local capacity to more effectively address youth violence. It models a new kind of federal and local collaboration, encouraging its members to change the way they do business by sharing common challenges and promising strategies, through comprehensive planning and coordinated action.

The Forum is an Administration-led effort involving agencies from across the federal government, corporate partners, non-profit groups, neighborhood and faith-based organizations, and youth representatives. It also complements the Attorney General’s Defending Childhood Initiative, a Department of Justice-wide effort designed to prevent and reduce the damage caused by children’s exposure to violence.

On September 19, 2012, Attorney General Eric Holder and Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Justice Programs Mary Lou Leary announced the expansion of the Forum to ten cities. New Orleans, Philadelphia, Minneapolis and Camden, N.J., join the six original cities. The 10 cities will participate in a working session on December 10-11, 2012 and highlight their strategies to address youth violence at a national summit in Washington, D.C. next spring. The new cities were selected through a competitive application process.

Smart on Juvenile Justice

The Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (JJDP), a component of the Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice, is promoting reform through the adoption of evidence-based practices and a developmentally appropriate approach to juvenile justice. The Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention is aware of the growing body of research on effective community-based approaches to juvenile crime and the limited impact that secure placement has on reducing juvenile offending and recidivism. The Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention has incorporated this research into the development of a Smart on Juvenile Justice strategy that focuses on implementing juvenile justice reforms to maximize cost savings and strategically reinvesting the savings while supporting statewide system change.

In June 2014, the Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention announced a suite of Smart on Juvenile Justice grants focused on implementing juvenile justice reforms to maximize cost savings and strategically reinvest the savings while supporting statewide system change.

Race and the Juvenile Justice System

In the context of justice on trials in the United States, civilrights.org publishes the following: examines the disproportionately harsh treatment of minorities in the juvenile justice system, an area in which especially pronounced disparities pose ominous consequences for minority communities. For example, minority youths are disproportionately targeted for arrest in the war on drugs.

In Baltimore, Maryland, 18 white youths and 86 black youths were arrested for selling drugs in 1980. One decade later, juvenile drug sale arrests had increased more than 100 percent overall, and the almost 5-to-1 racial disparity that existed a decade earlier had become a 100-to-1 disparity: white youths were arrested 13 times for selling drugs in 1990 – less than in 1980 – while black youths were arrested 1304 times, an 1400 percent increase from 1980.

These figures reflect the broader national experience: From 1986 to 1991, arrests of white juveniles for drug offenses decreased 34 percent, while arrests of minority juveniles increased 78 percent. All this despite data suggesting that drug use rates among white, black, and Hispanic youths are about the same, and that drug use has in fact been lower among black youths than white youths for the last couple of decades. Similar disparities appear in relation to non-drug-related crimes.

Resources

See Also

    • Juvenile Justice

Juvenile Arrests (33.2)
Juvenile Justice Process (32.9)
Juvenile Delinquency Prevention (27)
Correctional Education (27)
Criminal Justice Agencies (26.7)
Juvenile Offenses (26.1)

  • Legal Traditions
  • Historical Laws
  • History of Law

Further Reading

  • Arnsten, A., & Shansky, R. (2004). Adolescence: Vulnerable period for stress-induced prefrontal cortical function. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1021 (Adolescent brain development: Vulnerabilities and opportunities), 143–147.
  • Barton, W. (2006). Incorporating the strengths perspective into intensive juvenile aftercare. Western Criminology Review, 7(2) 48–61.
  • Beck, A. & Harrison, P. (2010) Sexual victimization in juvenile facilities reported to youth, 2008–2009. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, OJJDP, BCJ228426.
  • Beckett, K., & Western, B. (2000). The institutional sources of incarceration: Deviance, regulation and the transformation of state policy. Paper presented at the American Criminology Society Annual Meeting, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
  • Bishop, D. (2000). Juvenile offenders in the adult criminal justice system. In M. Tonry (Ed.). Crime and justice: A review of research. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Juvenile Justice in United States Law in the Oxford International Encyclopedia of Legal History (Oxford University Press)
  • The Oxford Encyclopedia of American Political and Legal History (Oxford University Press)
  • Juvenile Justice in United States Law in the Dictionary of Concepts in History, by Harry Ritter
  • Bishop, D., & Frazier, C. (2000). Consequences of Transfer. In J. Fagan & F. Zimring (Eds.), The changing borders of juvenile justice (pp. 227–276). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Bridges, G. S., & Steen, S. (1998). Racial disparities in official assessment of juvenile offenders; Attributional stereotypes as mediating mechanisms. American Sociological Review, 63(4), 554–570.
  • Edelman, P. (2002). American government and the politics of youth. In M. Rosenheim (Eds.), A century of juvenile justice (pp. 310–339). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Fagan, J. (1996). The comparative advantage of juvenile versus criminal court sanction among adolescent felony offenders. Law and Society, 18(1), 77–114.
  • Feld, B., & Bishop, D. (2012). Oxford Handbook of Juvenile Justice. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.
  • Fowler, P., & Toro, P. (2006). Youth aging out of foster care in southeast Michigan. Detroit, MI: Dept. of Psychology, Wayne State University.
  • Garland, D. (2001). The culture of control. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Greenwood, P. (2006). Changing lives: Delinquency prevention as crime-control policy. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Greenwood, P., & Turner, S. (2011) Establishing effective community-based care in juvenile justice. In F. Sherman & F. Jacobs, (Eds.), Juvenile justice: Advancing research, policy and practice (pp. 471–504). New York: Wiley.
  • Griffin, P. (2005). Juvenile court-controlled reentry: Three practice models. Special Project Bulletin. Pittsburgh, PA: Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, National Center for Juvenile Justice.
  • Griffin, P., Addie, S. Adams, B., & Firestone, K. (2011). Trying juveniles as adults: An analysis of state transfer laws and reporting. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, OJJDP.
  • Grisso, T. (2004). Double jeopardy: Adolescent offenders with mental disorders. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Harrison, P., & Beck, A. (2006). Prisoners in 2005. Washington, DC: U.S. Dept. of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics. NCJ 215092.
  • Hawkins, D., & Kempf-Leonard. (2005). Our children, their children. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Hockenberry, S., Sickmund, M., & Sladky, A. (2011) Juvenile residential facility census, 2008: Selected findings. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs OJJDP.
  • Hockenberry, S. (2013). Juveniles in Residential Placement, 2010. Washington, DC: U.S. Dept. of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency.
  • Holzer, H. (2010) Avoiding a lost generation: How to minimize the impact of the Great Recession on young workers. Testimony Before the Joint Economic Committee of the U.S. Congress, May 28.
  • Human Rights Watch. (2005). The rest of their lives: Life without parole for child offenders in the U.S. New York: Author & Amnesty International.
  • Kelly, K. (2002). Abuse/neglect and delinquency: Dually involved minors in the juvenile court. Paper presented at the American Society of Criminology Annual Meeting, Chicago.
  • Krisberg, B., & Marchionna, S. (2007, February). Attitudes of US voters toward youth crime and the justice system. Focus. San Francisco: National Council on Crime and Delinquency.
  • Lerman, P. (2002). Twentieth century developments in America’s institutional system for youth in trouble. In M. Rosenheim (Ed.), A century of juvenile justice (pp. 74–110). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Lipsey, M., & Wilson, D. (1998). Effective intervention for serious delinquency in adolescence and early adulthood. In R. Loeber & D. Farrington (Eds.), Serious and violent juvenile offenders. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.
  • Mears, D., Hay, C., Gertz, M., & Mancini, C. (2007). Public opinion and the foundation of the juvenile court. Criminology, 45(1), 223–258.
  • Michalic, S., Fagan, A., Irwin, K., Ballard, D., & Elliot, D. (2002). Blueprints for violence prevention replications: Factors for implementation success. Boulder, CO: Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence, Institute of Behavioral Science, University of Colorado.
  • Mulvey, E. (2011a). Highlights from pathways to desistance: A longitudinal study of serious adolescent offenders. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, OJJDP.
  • Mulvey, E. (2011b). No place for kids: The case for reducing juvenile incarceration. Baltimore: Annie E. Casey Foundation.
  • National Research Council. (2013). Reforming juvenile justice: A developmental approach. Washington, DC: National Academies Press, 2013.
  • Nunn, K. (2002). The child as other: Race and differential treatment in the juvenile justice system. DePaul Law Review, 51(Spring), 134–146.
  • Osgood, D. W., Foster, M., Flanagan, C., & Ruth, G. (2005). On your own without a net: The transition to adulthood for vulnerable populations. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Presidential Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice. (1967). Task Force Report. Washington, DC: U.S. Govt. Printing Office.
  • Puzzanchera, C. (2011). Juvenile Arrests, 2009. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs. OJJDP.
  • Puzzanchera, C., Adams, B., & Hockenberry, S. (2012). Juvenile court statistics 2009. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, OJJDP.
  • Rosenheim, M. (2002). The modern American juvenile court. In M. Rosenheim, F. Zimring, D. Tanenhaus, & B. Dohrn (Eds.), A century of juvenile justice (pp. 341–360). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Ross, T., & Miller, J. (2011). How American government frames youth problems. In Sherman, F., & Jacobs, F. (Eds.), Advancing research, policy and practice (pp. 352–368). New York: Wiley.
  • Ryan, J., Hong, J., & Hernandez, P. (2010) Kinship foster care and the risk of juvenile delinquency. Children and Youth Services Review, 32(2), 1823–1830.
  • Sampson, R., Morenoff, J., & Raudenbush, S. (2005). Social anatomy of racial and ethnic disparities in violence. American Journal of Public Health, 95(2), 224–232.
  • Sarri, R., & Shook, J. (2005). Human rights and juvenile justice in the United States: Challenges and opportunities. In M. Ensalaco & L. Majka (Eds.), Children’s Human Rights (pp. 197–228). New York: Rowman and Littlefield.
  • Sarri, R., Shook, J., & Ward, G. (2001). Decision making in juvenile justice: A comparative study of four states. Ann Arbor: Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan.
  • Scott, E., & Grisso, T. (1997). The evolutions of the adolescence: A developmental perspective on juvenile justice. Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, 88, 137–138.
  • Setterstein, R., Furstenberg, F., & Rumbaut, R. (2005). On the frontier of young adulthood: Theory, research and public policy. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Shook, J., & Sarri, R. (2008), Trends in the commitment of juveniles to adult prisons: Toward an increased willingness to treat juveniles as adults. The Wayne Law Review, 54(4), 1725–1765.
  • Sickmund, M., Sladky, T. J., & Kang, W. (2011). Easy Access to the Census of Juveniles in Residential Placement.
  • Snyder, H. N., & Sickmund, M. (2006). Juvenile offenders and victims: 2006 national report. Washington, DC: OJJDP, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice.
  • Spear, L. (2000). The adolescent brain and age-related behavioral manifestations. Neuroscience Biobehavior, 24, 417–463.
  • Spencer, M. B., & Jones-Walker, C. (2004). Interventions and services offered to former juvenile offenders reentering their communities: An analysis of program effectiveness. Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice, 2(1), 88–89.
  • Tanenhaus, D. (2002). The evolution of the juvenile court in the early twentieth century. In M. Rosenheim, F. Zimring, D. Tanenhaus, & B. Dohrn (Eds.), A century of juvenile justice (pp. 42–74). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Task Force Report on Juvenile Crime and Juvenile Justice. (1974). Washington, DC: Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.
  • Tyler, J., Zeidenberg, J., & Lotke, E. (2006). Cost effective youth corrections: The fiscal architecture of rational juvenile justice systems. Washington, DC: Justice Policy Institute.
  • U.S. Dept. of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics. (2012). Census of Juveniles Below the Age of 18 in Prisons and Jails.
  • U.S. Surgeon General. (2001). Delinquency prevention programs that do not work. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
  • Ward, G. (2012). The black childsSavers. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Zimring, F. E. (2002). The common thread: Diversion in the jurisprudence of juvenile courts. In M. Rosenheim, F. Zimring, D. Tanenhaus, & B. Dohrn (Eds.), A century of juvenile justice (pp. 142–158). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Zahn, M. (2009). The delinquent girl. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.
  • Zimring, F. E. (2004). An American travesty. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Juvenile Justice System: Open and Free Legal Research of US Law

Federal Primary Materials

The U.S. federal government system consists of executive, legislative, and judicial branches, each of which creates information that can be the subject of legal research about Juvenile Justice System. This part provides references, in relation to Juvenile Justice System, to the legislative process, the federal judiciary, and the primary sources of federal law (cases, statutes, and regulations).

Federal primary materials about Juvenile Justice System by content types:

Laws and Regulations

US Constitution
Federal Statutory Codes and Legislation

Federal Case Law and Court Materials

U.S. Courts of Appeals
United States courts of appeals, inclouding bankruptcy courts and bankcruptcy appellate panels:

Federal Administrative Materials and Resources

Presidential Materials

Materials that emanate from the President’s lawmaking function include executive orders for officers in departments and agencies and proclamations for announcing ceremonial or commemorative policies. Presidential materials available include:

Executive Materials

Federal Legislative History Materials

Legislative history traces the legislative process of a particular bill (about Juvenile Justice System and other subjects) for the main purpose of determining the legislators’ intent behind the enactment of a law to explain or clarify ambiguities in the language or the perceived meaning of that law (about Juvenile Justice System or other topics), or locating the current status of a bill and monitoring its progress.

State Administrative Materials and Resources

State regulations are rules and procedures promulgated by state agencies (which may apply to Juvenile Justice System and other topics); they are a binding source of law. In addition to promulgating regulations, state administrative boards and agencies often have judicial or quasi-judicial authority and may issue administrative decisions affecting Juvenile Justice System. Finding these decisions can be challenging. In many cases, researchers about Juvenile Justice System should check state agency web sites for their regulations, decisions, forms, and other information of interest.

State rules and regulations are found in codes of regulations and administrative codes (official compilation of all rules and regulations, organized by subject matter). Search here:

State opinions of the Attorney General (official written advisory opinions on issues of state law related to Juvenile Justice System when formerly requested by a designated government officer):

Tools and Forms

Law in Other Regions

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