National juvenile justice data collection efforts should minimize respondent burden while maximizing data collected. The data collector should disseminate the results of the data collection not only to researchers but to the data providers and broadly to the public.
The National Juvenile Court Data Archive (Archive) dates back to the 1920s and is the second oldest justice system data collection effort in the country. Since 1975, the NCJFCJ’s research arm, the National Center for Juvenile Justice (NCJJ), has been responsible for the Archive funded through grants from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) now managed by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ). The Archive collects data from juvenile court and juvenile justice agency information systems and produces national estimates of juvenile court case processing of youth charged with law-violating behavior. The Archive has increased coverage of the data on which national estimates of juvenile court delinquency caseloads are based—from 61% in 1984 to nearly 90% today. The increased coverage reflects increased juvenile court/juvenile justice agency automation nationwide.
Each year the Archive publishes Juvenile Court Statistics, which profiles the delinquency cases processed by courts with juvenile jurisdiction. The report also tracks trends in delinquency and petitioned status offense cases over several decades. Data include the volume of cases, demographics of juveniles involved, and offenses charged. These data are also made publicly available through OJJDP’s Statistical Briefing Book. The result is also an Archive with hundreds of unique case-level jurisdiction-specific data files that have been used in scores of research studies, including work by some of the best-known researchers in the field (such as John Laub, former director of the National Institute of Justice). The Archive approach to data collection is now being modeled by the Bureau of Justice Statistics for some of its court data collections—the goal being to obtain maximal results with a reduced respondent burden.
OJJDP’s program plan includes the Archive as one of its core National Juvenile Justice Data Collections. Congress appropriates funding to support juvenile court and justice agency information systems and data analysis improvements at the state and county levels. The NCJFCJ recommends setting aside federal court improvement funds to support information systems and data analysis improvements.