Court data suggest federal requirements to deinstitutionalize status offenders have been effective

February 6, 2012

[Note: This entry posted on behalf of Benjamin Adams, Research Associate, NCJJ, NCJFCJ]

The Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (JJDP) Act of 1974, most recently amended in 2002, established four custody-related requirements which States must agree to comply with in order to receive Formula Grants funds. The deinstitutionalization of status offenders (DSO) requirement prohibits secure placement of status offenders and nonoffenders. The JJDP Act specifies that “juveniles… charged with or who have committed status offenses (that would not be criminal if committed by an adult) or offenses which do not constitute violations of valid court orders, or alien juveniles in custody, or such nonoffenders as dependent, neglected, or abused children, shall not be placed in secure detention or correctional facilities…” In practice, federal regulations permit accused status offenders and nonoffenders to be held in secure juvenile facilities for up to 24 hours following initial contact with the police or the court.

Estimates from the OJJDP-funded National Juvenile Court Data Archive show a substantial decline in the use of detention in status offense cases:

  • In 2008, about 5% of all status offense cases involved detention at some point between case referral and disposition, down from 40% in 1975.
  • Most of the decline in the use of detention in status offense cases occurred within the first 15 years of the passage of the JJDP Act. In 1975, status offense cases were twice as likely as delinquency cases to involve secure detention. By the mid-1980s, the likelihood that a status offense case would involve detention was half that for delinquency cases.
  • Over the period, the percentage of delinquency cases detained remained essentially constant, averaging 21% per year. Following a dramatic decline, the percentage of status offense cases detained has remained relatively stable (averaging 6% per year) between 1989 and 2008.

For more information on federal requirements and initiatives, visit OJJDP’s Deinstitutionalization of Status Offenders (DSO) Best Practices Database.

To learn more about data collected through the National Juvenile Court Data Archive, click here.

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