A child who experiences any kind of maltreatment – neglect, physical or sexual abuse – faces a greater likelihood of involvement with the juvenile justice system. The Child Welfare League of America emphasizes that point in its overview of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act, up for reauthorization since 2007.
First passed in 1974 and most recently renewed in 2002, the JJDPA contains four “core protections” that states must uphold to receive federal juvenile justice funding. They are: deinstitutionalizing status offenders (such as truants and curfew violators cases ); separating juvenile and adult inmates; not holding juveniles in adult jails; and addressing disproportionate minority contact with the justice system. Advocates hope to strengthen the requirements. For instance, they want protections extended to all youths under 18, which those detained in the adult criminal system currently lack, says Mark Soler; his Center for Children’s Law and Social Policy is a partner in the Act 4 Juvenile Justice campaign. Among other things Soler says advocates seek: an end to incarcerating status offenders (meaning the offense would not be a crime if committed by an adult); protections against abusive confinement conditions such as restraints or excessive room isolation; and more emphasis on reducing the overrepresentation of youth of color.
Advocates also seek more money for youth development and juvenile justice programs. Since 2002, funding for Department of Justice's juvenile programs has been reduced by 38 percent to $348 million in 2007, the Congressional Research Service reported. (The DOJ does not track reauthorization status on its website, nor had the U.S. Senate or House of Representatives produced any bills as of mid-January.
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Who's an "adult"? It’s not clear how many youths under 18 are tried in adult criminal courts in this country. “We don’t know the big number,” says Melissa Sickmund, a senior research associate at the National Center for Juvenile Justice and author of numerous federal reports. Some researchers have estimated as many as 200,000 youths enter the adult system each year through a prosecutorial or judicial waiver, statutory exclusion (for certain offense categories), or because they live in states with a lower age of criminal jurisdiction. These youths are not protected by the JJDPA, the Campaign for Youth Justice points out.
Transferring juveniles to the adult justice system generally increases, rather than decreases, rates of violence among those youths, a Centers for Disease Control task force reported
in November 2007. Nearly 97,000 juvenile offenders were held in public and private facilities on one day in October 2003, the OJJDP’s most recent national Census of Juveniles in Residential Places
That figure was down from 107,667 in 1999, the peak year for incarcerating juveniles. It began to fall thereafter – for the first time in a generation.
Impact of abuse and neglect.
An estimated 899,000 children in the United States and Puerto Rico were found to be victims of abuse and neglect in fiscal year 200, the most recent year for which the federal Administration for Children and Families has data
. Neglect was the most common form of maltreatment, involving 63 percent of victims. Nearly 17 percent experienced physical abuse, and 9 percent suffered sexual abuse. More than half (54 percent) of the victims were 7 or younger. As for race and ethnicity, 50 percent were white, nearly a quarter (23 percent) were African-American, and 17 percent were Latino.
Age of victims.
Students ages 12 to14 were more likely to be victims of crime at school; students ages 15 to 18 were more likely to be victimized away from school. Regardless, rates of violent and property crimes at U.S. schools – 57 per 1,000 students 12 and older – were statistically unchanged from the previous year. Those are among the key findings in “Indicators of School Crime and Safety, 2008,”
an annual report from the Bureau of Justice Statistics and the National Center for Education Statistics. It tracks the incidence of rape, sexual assault, robbery, aggravated assault, simple assault and theft.
Young people are more likely
to be victims of violent crime. The highest incidence occurs among 20- to 24-year-olds, with nearly 5 out of every 100.
Part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, it’s the primary federal agency for conducting and supporting U.S. public health activities. Its divisions on adolescent and school health and on violence prevention oversee numerous centers and programs. Among them are:
These 10 centers, at universities around the country, connect academic and community resources.
Its division of adolescent and school health (DASH) conducts the national Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System. These annual surveys gather data on child injuries and accidents; tobacco, alcohol and drug use; school-related violence; sexual behavior; diet and physical activity.
It provides statistics and background on child maltreatment, intimate partner violence, sexual violence, suicide and youth violence.
It provides information on research, statistics and programs regarding violence committed by and against young people.
A collaboration of federal agencies and departments, the forum fosters coordination in collecting and reporting federal statistics on family and social environment, physical environment and safety, behavior, education, economic circumstances, health and health care. Such data are compiled in the annual report, “America’s Children: Key National Indicators of Well-being,”
released each July.
The bureau collects and analyzes arrest reports from around the nation. Its Uniform Crime Reporting Program compiles statistics for several annual reports. One is “Crime in the United States,” which looks at the volume and rate of offenses for the nation, states and individual agencies. The FBI also has done a topical study on “The Structure of Family Violence: An Analysis of Selected Incidents.” The FBI operates a Crimes Against Children Program, investigating child sex crimes, computer porn, child abduction and more. Links include the National Sex Offenders Registry
For crime reports, contact Stephen Fischer, spokesman for the Criminal Justice Information Services Division in Clarksburg, W. Va., 304.625.5820
OJP provides federal leadership in preventing and controlling crime, improving the criminal and juvenile justice systems, increasing knowledge about crime and related issues, and assisting crime victims. Contact: OJP office of communications, 202.307.0703
Its many components include:
It compiles data, trends and reports on topics such as adjudication of juvenile cases; crime in schools; female juvenile delinquents; gangs; juvenile curfews; juvenile sex offenders and more.
OJJDP was established to help youth in crisis, from serious, violent and chronic offenders to victims of abuse and neglect. It collaborates with professionals from diverse disciplines to improve juvenile justice policies and practices, and it works with states and local governments to develop effective prevention and intervention programs.
This offers the latest research findings, publications on youth-related issues, practical guides and manuals, and other resources. It also maintains the JUVJUST listserv, providing information about DOJ reports and activities as well as those of countless other justice and youth-services organizations.
Maintained by the National Center for Juvenile Justice (see below), it provides the most current statistics and trends in juvenile justice and victimization, such as characteristics of the juvenile population or supports for juvenile reentry and aftercare. Its data analysis tools enable users to run their own comparisons.
Part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the center addresses cross-system issues involving child welfare, substance abuse, dependency courts and tribal and family judicial systems. It collects and disseminates analysis and research to help child welfare and other professionals improve their services and policies.
Its Healthy Families and Communities Subcommittee has jurisdiction over adolescent development and training programs. These include but aren’t limited to: programs providing for the care and treatment of certain at risk youth, through the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act and the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act; all matters dealing with child abuse and domestic violence, including the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, and child adoption; school lunch and child nutrition; and poverty programs including the Community Services Block Grant Act; all domestic volunteer programs; library services and construction, and programs related to the arts and humanities. George Miller (D-Calif.) chairs the committee; Howard McKeon (R-Calif.) is the ranking member.
Contact: Press officers for Miller, 202.226.0853, or McKeon, 202.225.4527
The committee has jurisdiction over areas including juvenile justice. Its chairman is Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.); its ranking member is Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.).
Contact: Judiciary press secretaries for Leahy, 202.224.2154, or Specter, 202.224.9020
The Annie E. Casey Foundation launched this project in 1992 to promote opportunities for youth in the juvenile justice system. JDAI supports policies, practices and programs that maximize young people's chances for personal transformation, safely reduce reliance on secure detention and strengthen the juvenile justice system. Its JDAI Help Desk
offers data, reports on model sites, technical assistance and more. The site is run by the Pretrial Justice Institute in Washington, D.C.
Contact: PJI, 202.638.3080.
ABA Center on Children and the Law
A program of the American Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Division, it aims to improve children's lives through advances in law, justice, knowledge, practice and public policy. Its areas of expertise include child abuse and neglect, child welfare and protective services system enhancement, foster care, family preservation, termination of parental rights, parental substance abuse, adolescent health and domestic violence.
The nonprofit provides research on: transfers and waivers of juveniles into the adult criminal system; “adultification,” or treating youths as adults; and effective, alternative approaches to youth justice. The campaign maintains a list of contacts – to departments of corrections, juvenile justice specialists and child advocates – in 51 jurisdictions. “Jailing Juveniles: The Dangers of Incarcerating Youth in Adult Jails in America,” its November 2007 report, cited inadequate protections.
The public interest law and policy organization focuses on reform of juvenile justice and other systems that affect troubled and at-risk children. It works to protect the rights of children in such systems. Its executive director is Mark Soler.
Launched in spring 2007, the center is designed to support public agency leaders in the juvenile justice and related systems of care. Its director is Shay Bilchik, who headed the federal Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention before leading the Child Welfare League of America.
Its research looks across government systems – child protection, juvenile justice, human services, health, housing and public education – and how they interact. Its Multistate Foster Care Data Archive – with individual case histories of more than 1.5 million foster children – is considered a national model for aggregating and analyzing administrative data. It’s a core resource for the Center for State Foster Care and Adoption Data
, a partnership of Chapin Hall, the American Public Human Services Association, a growing number of states and other universities. The center’s research shows that foster children disproportionately come in contact with the criminal justice system compared with their peers.
Child Welfare League of America
The association of nearly 800 public and private nonprofit agencies assists more than 3.5 million abused and neglected children and their families each year with a range of services. Its many programs include those on child protection, domestic violence and juvenile justice.
Contact: Joyce Johnson, communications director, 804.492.4519 (central Virginia) or email@example.com
At the center, law students – supervised by attorneys and professors – represent young people on matters of delinquency and crime, family violence, school discipline, health and disability, and immigration and asylum. The center collaborates with communities and child welfare, educational, mental health and juvenile justice systems to develop fair, effective policies and solutions for reform. It collaborates on community programs to keep children out of the juvenile justice system, reduce child confinement and incarceration, improve confinement conditions, set up educational programs informing adolescents of their legal rights and responsibilities, and challenge the disproportionate presence of minority youth in the public justice system.
Contact: 312.503.3100, Ext. 3; firstname.lastname@example.org
The national nonprofit association represents governor-appointed advisory groups from U.S. states, territories and the District of Columbia. It promotes best policies and practices; educates the public and policymakers; assists states and territories in meeting Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act requirements; and institutes reforms to improve the quality, cultural sensitivity and accessibility of community and court-based services. Since 2005, CJJ has sponsored the National Juvenile Justice Network
, which helps state advocates attain fair treatment for youths.
The national nonprofit organization represents youth correctional CEOs in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and major metropolitan counties. It aims to provide leadership development and to improve local juvenile correctional services, programs and practices so youngsters in their care succeed when they return to communities. CJCA is based in Braintree, Mass.
The nonprofit, member-supported organization, seeks to improve the quality and accuracy of news reporting on crime, law enforcement and the judicial system. Affiliated with the University of Pennsylvania’s Jerry Lee Center of Criminology
, CJJ maintains a Cops and Courts Reporters discussion list. To join, e-mail CCRemail@example.com
Every Child Matters Education Fund
The nonprofit, nonpartisan organization works to make children, youth and families a national political priority. Its study, “Geography Matters Report: Child Well-Being in the States,” finds that huge disparities exist among states, based on ten indicators of child well-being: infant mortality, child death, teen deaths, births to teen mothers, lack of prenatal care, uninsured children, child poverty, juvenile incarceration, child abuse fatalities and child welfare expenditures. The report shows how states compare for each indicator, and attributes state disparities to a widening national investment gap in health and social programs.
The nonprofit anti-crime organization involves more than 3,000 police chiefs, sheriffs, prosecutors, other law enforcement leaders and violence survivors in efforts to prevent crime and violence. Its research-based initiatives focus on high quality early education programs, child abuse and neglect prevention, after-school programs for children and teens, and interventions to get troubled kids back on track.
Part of the Baltimore university’s Bloomberg School of Public Health, the center promotes research and public policy efforts to reduce gun-related injuries and deaths. It studies the public health effects of guns in society, led by co-directors Jon Vernick and Daniel Webster. Its Separating Kids and Guns program looked at adolescent development and risk assessment. Contact: Vernick, 410.955.7982; firstname.lastname@example.org
The nonprofit institute aims to reduce or end America’s reliance on incarceration as a solution to social problems. It promotes alternatives to incarceration through research, public education and communications advocacy. “The Consequences Aren’t Minor,” a March 2007 report on juvenile incarceration, shows youths prosecuted as adults often are held in adult jails for months or years though most are charged with nonviolent crimes.
The network of cross-disciplinary experts works to bring research to the practices of juvenile justice systems through the critical analysis of policies and practices, the design and implementation of new research on adolescent development and juvenile justice, and the dissemination of results of these activities to policymakers, practitioners, journalists, other social scientists and legal scholars. Its director is Laurence Steinberg, a distinguished professor of psychology at Temple University.
The center, a professional program of the University of Maryland’s Philip Merrill College of Journalism, offers veteran courts reporter Aaron Epstein’s “Beat Guide: Courts & the Law.” It includes advice, a glossary of legal terms and Web links.
The archive – based at the University of Michigan and supported by the 550-plus members of the Interuniversity Consortium for Political and Social Research – facilitates research in criminal justice and criminology by preserving, enhancing and sharing computerized data resources. It also offers training in quantitative analysis of crime and justice data. It archives data for the Project for Human Development
in Chicago Neighborhoods, a large-scale, interdisciplinary study of how families, schools, and neighborhoods affect child and adolescent development.
The private, nonprofit center is a research division of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (see below). Since 1995, it has produced the federal government’s annual “Juvenile Offenders and Victims” national reports, pulling together data and trends in clear, accessible writing and graphics. Howard Snyder and Melissa Sickmund are co-authors. NCJJ’s State Juvenile Justice Profiles
feature detailed information and analysis for each state’s juvenile justice system. It also maintains an extensive list of links to organizations involved in juvenile justice. NCJJ is in Pittsburgh.
The private, nonprofit center aims to help prevent child abduction and sexual exploitation, to help find missing children and to assist child victims, their families and professionals. It’s authorized by Congress to work with the federal Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, and it collaborates with other federal agencies to safeguard children. It’s based in Alexandria, Va.
A program of the American Prosecutors Research Institute, the center provides training, technical assistance and publications to prosecutors, investigators and allied criminal justice professionals on all aspects of criminal child abuse and exploitation. It has substantive research on medical, psychological and sociological aspects of child abuse, neglect and exploitation, plus best practices and innovations in forensic interviewing, investigation and prosecution of child abuse and maltreatment. It’s in Alexandria, Va.
The council provides training, technical assistance and research to improve the nation’s courts, judges and staff. It also works to raise awareness of core issues affecting children and families, including: child abuse and neglect, adoption and foster care, juvenile delinquency, family violence, alcohol and other drug abuse and minority issues. Its more than 2,000 members include judges, commissioners and other juvenile and family law professionals. Some of its major efforts include: the National Center for Juvenile Justice (see above) and the Resource Center on Domestic Violence, which provides information and help to those working in the field of domestic violence and child protection. It is headquartered at the University of Nevada in Reno.
The center works to build the capacity of the juvenile defense bar and to improve access to counsel and quality of representation for children in the justice system. It also offers comparative data on state statutes, court rules and other policies related to juvenile justice. The center was created in 1999 by the American Bar Association; it became independent in 2005.
The think tank’s Justice Policy Center
does research on understanding youth crime and reducing youth involvement with the criminal justice system. For instance, a September 2007 report evaluated “Reclaiming Futures,”
a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation initiative for improving outcomes for drug-involved youth in the juvenile justice system. It found positive and significant changes outcomes among youths in all 10 demonstration sites that had implemented organizational change and system reform. Terry Dunworth directs the center; David Hayeslip, Caterina Roman and John Roman conduct most of its research on juvenile justice, gangs and school safety.
Through litigation, education and advocacy, this public interest law firm works to protect children in the nation’s foster care and juvenile justice systems. Its resource database
enables searches cross-referencing, say, juvenile justice and early childhood. The center is based in San Francisco.