Intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text on the opening pages of each chapter. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.
Do not use for reproduction, copying, pasting, or reading; exclusively for search engines.
OCR for page 154
JUVENILE CRIME 5 The Juvenile Justice System A separate juvenile justice system was established in the United States about 100 years ago with the goal of diverting youthful offenders from the destructive punishments of criminal courts and encouraging rehabilitation based on the individual juvenile's needs. This system was to differ from adult or criminal court in a number of ways. It was to focus on the child or adolescent as a person in need of assistance, not on the act that brought him or her before the court. The proceedings were informal, with much discretion left to the juvenile court judge. Because the judge was to act in the best interests of the child, procedural safeguards available to adults, such as the right to an attorney, the right to know the charges brought against one, the right to trial by jury, and the right to confront one's accuser, were thought unnecessary. Juvenile court proceedings were closed to the public and juvenile records were to remain confidential so as not to interfere with the child's or adolescent's ability to be rehabilitated and reintegrated into society. The very language used in juvenile court underscored these differences. Juveniles are not charged with crimes, but rather with delinquencies; they are not found guilty, but rather are adjudicated delinquent; they are not sent to prison, but to training school or reformatory. In practice, there was always a tension between social welfare and social control—that is, focusing on the best interests of the individual child versus focusing on punishment, incapacitation, and protecting society from certain offenses. This tension has shifted over time and has varied significantly from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, and it remains today.
OCR for page 155
JUVENILE CRIME In response to the increase in violent crime in the 1980s, state legal reforms in juvenile justice, particularly those that deal with serious offenses, have stressed punitiveness, accountability, and a concern for public safety, rejecting traditional concerns for diversion and rehabilitation in favor of a get-tough approach to juvenile crime and punishment. This change in emphasis from a focus on rehabilitating the individual to punishing the act is exemplified by the 17 states that redefined the purpose clause of their juvenile courts to emphasize public safety, certainty of sanctions, and offender accountability (Torbet and Szymanski, 1998). Inherent in this change in focus is the belief that the juvenile justice system is too soft on delinquents, who are thought to be potentially as much a threat to public safety as their adult criminal counterparts. It is important to remember that the United States has at least 51 different juvenile justice systems, not one. Each state and the District of Columbia has its own laws that govern its juvenile justice system. How juvenile courts operate may vary from county to county and municipality to municipality within a state. The federal government has jurisdiction over a small number of juveniles, such as those who commit crimes on Indian reservations or in national parks, and it has its own laws to govern juveniles within its system. States that receive money under the federal Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act must meet certain requirements, such as not housing juveniles with adults in detention or incarceration facilities, but it is state law that governs the structure of juvenile courts and juvenile corrections facilities. When this report refers to the juvenile justice system, it is referring to a generic framework that is more or less representative of what happens in any given state. Legal reforms and policy changes that have taken place under the get-tough rubric include more aggressive policing of juveniles, making it easier (or in some cases mandatory) to treat a juvenile who has committed certain offenses as an adult, moving decision making about where to try a juvenile from the judge to the prosecutor or the state legislature, changing sentencing options, and opening juvenile proceedings and records. Changes in laws do not necessarily translate into changes in practice. In addition to the belief that at least some juvenile offenders are amenable to treatment and rehabilitation, other factors limit overreliance on get-tough measures: (1) the expense of incarceration, (2) overcrowding that results from sentencing offenders more harshly, and (3) research evidence that finds few gains, in terms of reduced rates of recidivism, from simply incapacitating youth without any attention to treatment or rehabilitation (Beck and Shipley, 1987; Byrne and Kelly, 1989; Hagan, 1991; National Research Council, 1993a; National Research Council, 1993b; Shannon et al., 1988). Practice may also move in ways not envisioned when laws are passed. For example, many jurisdictions have been experimenting with
OCR for page 156
JUVENILE CRIME alternative models of juvenile justice, such as the restorative justice model. Whereas the traditional juvenile justice model focuses attention on offender rehabilitation and the current get-tough changes focus on offense punishment, the restorative model focuses on balancing the needs of victims, offenders, and communities (Bazemore and Umbreit, 1995). Tracking changes in practice is difficult, not only because of the differences in structure of the juvenile justice system among the states, but also because the information collected about case processing and about incarcerated juveniles differs from state to state, and because there are few national data. Some states collect and publish a large amount of data on various aspects of the juvenile justice system, but for most states the data are not readily available. Although data are collected nationally on juvenile court case processing, 1 the courts are not required to submit data, so that national juvenile court statistics are derived from courts that cover only about two-thirds of the entire juvenile population (Stahl et al., 1999). Furthermore, there are no published national data on the number of juveniles convicted by offense, the number incarcerated by offense, sentence length, time served in confinement, or time served on parole (Langan and Farrington, 1998).2 Such national information is available on adults incarcerated in prisons and jails. The center of the juvenile justice system is the juvenile or family court (Moore and Wakeling, 1997). In fact, the term juvenile justice is often used synonymously with the juvenile court, but it also may refer to other affiliated institutions in addition to the court, including the police, prosecuting and defense attorneys, probation, juvenile detention centers, and juvenile correctional facilities (Rosenheim, 1983). In this chapter, juvenile justice is used in the latter, larger sense. After providing a brief historical background of the juvenile court and a description of stages in the juvenile justice system, we examine the various legal and policy changes that have taken place in recent years, the impact those changes have had on practice, and the result of the laws, policy, and practice on juveniles caught up in the juvenile justice system. Throughout the chapter, differences by race and by gender in involvement in the juvenile justice system are noted. Chapter 6 examines in more detail the overrepresentation of minorities in the juvenile justice system. 1 The National Center for Juvenile Justice, under contract with the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, U.S. Department of Justice, has collected and analyzed juvenile court statistics since 1975. 2 Data on the first two categories are already collected but not published. Data on the latter three categories are not now collected nationally.
OCR for page 157
JUVENILE CRIME HISTORY OF THE JUVENILE JUSTICE SYSTEM Until the early 19th century in the United States, children as young as 7 years old could be tried in criminal court and, if convicted, sentenced to prison or even to death. Children under the age of 7 were presumed to be unable to form criminal intent and were therefore exempt from punishment. The establishment of special courts and incarceration facilities for juveniles was part of Progressive Era reforms, along with kindergarten, child labor laws, mandatory education, school lunches, and vocational education, that were aimed at enhancing optimal child development in the industrial city (Schlossman, 1983). Reformers believed that treating children and adolescents as adult criminals was unnecessarily harsh and resulted in their corruption. In the words of one reformer, the main reason for the establishment of the juvenile court was “to prevent children from being treated as criminals ” (Van Waters, 1927:217). Based on the premise that children and young adolescents are developmentally different from adults and are therefore more amenable to rehabilitation, and that they are not criminally responsible for their actions, children and adolescents brought before the court were assumed to require the court's intervention and guidance, rather than solely punishment. They were not to be accused of specific crimes. The reason a juvenile came before the court—be it for committing an offense or because of abuse or neglect by his or her parents or for being uncontrollable—was less important than understanding the child's life situation and finding appropriate, individualized rehabilitative services (Coalition for Juvenile Justice, 1998; Schlossman, 1983). Historians have noted that the establishment of the juvenile court not only diverted youngsters from the criminal court, but also expanded the net of social control over juveniles through the incorporation of status jurisdiction into states' juvenile codes (e.g., Platt, 1977; Schlossman, 1977). The first juvenile court in the United States, authorized by the Illinois Juvenile Court Act of 1899, was founded in 1899 in Chicago. The act gave the court jurisdiction over neglected, dependent, and delinquent children under age 16. The focus of the court was rehabilitation rather than punishment. Records of the court were to be confidential to minimize stigma. The act required separation of juveniles from adults when incarcerated and barred the detention of children under age 12 in jails. The act also provided for informality in procedures within the court. The idea of the juvenile court spread rapidly. By 1925, a functioning juvenile court existed in every state except Maine and Wyoming (Schlossman, 1983). How well the juvenile courts around the country lived up to the founders ' aspirations is difficult to ascertain. They succeeded in diverting most children and adolescents from the criminal system, but they may
OCR for page 158
JUVENILE CRIME have been less successful with their rehabilitative goals. Schlossman (1983:965) noted that the following broad generalizations could be made of early 20th century juvenile courts: First, the clientele was overwhelmingly from the lower class and of immigrant parents. Second, boys and girls appeared in court for different reasons, and the courts disposed of their cases differently. The majority of girls, as compared to a very small proportion of boys, were charged under the loose heading of “immorality;” however, higher percentages of girls than boys were sent to reformatories, whereas lower percentages were placed on probation. Third, referral to court by agents other than the police, especially parents, relatives, and neighbors, was a far more common practice than it is today. Fourth, juvenile courts, particularly the probation staffs, often dealt with nearly as many cases “unofficially” (without court appearance) as officially. This placed added burdens on already large case loads and widened the net of the court to embrace every conceivable form of nonconventional behavior. A case study of the Milwaukee juvenile court in the early 20th century (Schlossman, 1977) found that probation officers had over 200 cases, far too many for the individualized services envisioned by the Progressive Era reformers. The detention center lacked any serious diagnostic function and was sometimes used punitively. The court hearings, rather than relying on “empathy, trust, and a spirit of rapprochement” (Schlossman, 1983:966) as called for by Denver's Judge Ben Lindsey, resorted to “fear, threats, and short-term detention to render children malleable” (Schlossman, 1983:966). As early as the 1910s, criticisms of the juvenile court's fairness and effectiveness began to be heard. One set of critics called into question the court's informality, charging that it resulted in discrimination and lack of attention to due process. Furthermore, the court treated children who had committed no crime the same as those who had committed a criminal act. Unlike adults, juveniles could be detained and incarcerated without a trial, a lawyer, or even being made aware of the charges against them. Another set of critics charged the court with being too lenient on young offenders. These same criticisms continue today (Dawson, 1990; Feld, 1997). Three Supreme Court decisions in the second half of the 20th century resulted in more procedural formality in the juvenile court, but other decisions maintained differences between juvenile and criminal courts. In 1966, in Kent v. the United States, the Court concluded that Morris Kent was denied due process rights when his case was transferred to criminal court without a hearing and without giving his attorney access to the social information on which the juvenile court judge based his decision.
OCR for page 159
JUVENILE CRIME The Court held that juveniles had the right to a hearing on the issue of transfer to adult court, that there must be the right to meaningful counsel, that counsel must be given access to the social records considered by the juvenile court, and that the juvenile court must provide a statement of its reasons for transfer with any waiver order. Justice Abe Fortas also called into question the fundamental fairness of the juvenile court: While there can be no doubt of the original laudable purpose of juvenile courts, studies and critiques in recent years raise serious questions as to whether actual performance measures well enough against theoretical purpose to make tolerable the immunity of the process from the reach of constitutional guaranties applicable to adults. . . . There is evidence, in fact, that there may be grounds for concern that the child receives the worst of both worlds: that he gets neither the protections accorded to adults nor the solicitous care and regenerative treatment postulated for children (Kent v. United States, 383 U.S. 541, 555-556). A year later, the decision of in re Gault (387 U.S. 1, 1967) extended the procedural safeguards required in juvenile court even further, giving juveniles many rights similar to those of adults charged with a crime. Fifteen-year-old Gerald Gault was sentenced to a state reformatory for an indeterminate period that could last until his 21st birthday for making an obscene phone call. The maximum sentence for an adult would have been a $50 fine or 2 months in jail. The case embodied nearly every procedural irregularity distinctive of juvenile courts: Gault was detained by the police and held overnight without his parents being notified; he was required to appear at a juvenile court hearing the following day; a probation officer filed a pro forma petition alleging Gault was a delinquent minor in need of care and custody of the court; no witnesses were called; there was no sworn testimony or written record of the court proceedings; and Gault was not advised of his right to remain silent or to have an attorney. The Gault decision entitled juveniles to receive notice of charges against them, to have legal counsel, to confront and cross-examine witnesses, to be protected against self-incrimination, to receive a transcript of the court hearing, and to appeal the judge's decision. In 1970, the Supreme Court raised the standard of proof necessary in juvenile court to that required in adult criminal court. In in re Winship (397 U.S. 358), the Court required that juveniles charged with criminal acts be proved “beyond a reasonable doubt” to have committed them. Prior to this ruling, there was no constitutional decision that required more than the less stringent civil court standard of a “preponderance of the evidence.” Protection from double jeopardy was extended to juveniles by the Supreme Court in 1975. In Breed v. Jones (421 U.S. 519), the Court held that
OCR for page 160
JUVENILE CRIME the double jeopardy clause of the Fifth Amendment prohibits states from trying a person as a juvenile and later as an adult for the same crime. In so doing, the Court recognized juvenile court proceedings as criminal proceedings, not social welfare ones (Feld, 1999). Nevertheless, the Court did not grant full criminal procedural entitlements to juveniles. In McKeiver v. Pennsylvania (403 U.S. 528 ), the Court held that juveniles were not entitled to a trial by jury, arguing that the juvenile court proceeding was not the fully adversarial process found in criminal courts. Some critics of the juvenile court argue that, given the punitive changes in juvenile justice legislation since the 1971 decision, the only remaining procedural differences between juvenile and adult criminal courts are access to juries and access to counsel (Feld, 1993). The lack of access to juries may have consequences for the outcome of a trial because judges and juries may decide cases differently. There is some evidence that juvenile court judges may be more likely than juries to convict. For example, a study by Greenwood et al. (1983) of juvenile justice administration in California compared the conviction rates of similar types of cases in juvenile and adult courts, concluding that it “is easier to win a conviction in the juvenile court than in the criminal court, with comparable types of cases” (Greenwood et al., 1983:30-31 cited in Feld, 1999). Furthermore, judges try hundreds of cases every year and consequently may evaluate facts more casually and less meticulously than jurors who focus on only one case. Judges may have preconceptions of the credibility of police and probation officers and of the juvenile in question. In contrast, jurors hear only a few cases and undergo careful procedures to test bias for each case. Also, judges are not required to discuss the law and evidence pertinent to a case with a group before making a decision, and they are often exposed to evidence that would be considered inadmissible in a jury trial (Feld, 1993, 1999). From their inception, juvenile courts had authority not only over children and adolescents who committed illegal acts, but also over those who defied parental authority or social conventions by such acts as running away from home, skipping school, drinking alcohol in public, or engaging in sexual behavior. These children and adolescents were deemed to be out of control and in need of guidance. Criticism of treating these status offenders (whose acts were considered problematic only because of their status as children) the same as children and adolescents who had committed criminal acts grew during the 1960s. The juvenile courts also had jurisdiction over abused and neglected children who had committed no offense. In the 1960s, many states revised their delinquency laws to move status offenders and nonoffenders into new nondelinquent categories, such as Persons, Children, or Minors in Need of Supervision (referred to as PINS, CHINS, and MINS). In 1974, in response to reported abuses in
OCR for page 161
JUVENILE CRIME the nation's training and reform schools and the high numbers of juveniles being held in adult facilities, Congress passed the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (42 U.S.C. §§5601-5640), creating a federal Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention within the Department of Justice. The Act provided federal leadership in the reform of the treatment of status offenses and nonoffenders. It required states that received federal formula grants to remove noncriminal status offenders and nonoffenders (e.g., abused and neglected children) from secure detention and correctional facilities. The provisions for the deinstitutionalization of status offenders led to a decrease in the numbers of status offenders held in detention facilities and institutions by the early 1980s (Krisberg and Schwartz, 1983; National Research Council, 1982; Schneider, 1984a). Schneider (1984b), however, found that some children and adolescents who, prior to the move to deinstitutionalize status offenders, would have been charged with a status offense, were subsequently being charged with minor delinquent offenses (e.g., theft rather than running away). Therefore, Schneider asserted, they were still coming to the court at the same rate, but as delinquents rather than status cases. Amendments to the 1974 act in 1980 weakened the deinstitutionalization mandate somewhat by allowing detention and incarceration of noncriminal juveniles for violating a valid court order. Status offenders who did not comply with treatment ordered by the court could become criminal delinquents by virtue of being charged with criminal contempt of court. Young people who might formerly have been processed through the juvenile justice system for status offenses may now be institutionalized in other facilities, such as private mental health and drug and alcohol treatment facilities. Very little is known about the number of youngsters confined to such institutions, the length of their institutionalization, or the conditions of their confinement. Concern over housing juveniles with adult criminals led to other requirements under the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act. Sight and sound separation of juveniles and adults in detention and correctional facilities and removal of juveniles from adult jails and lockups were mandated. In 1988, the act was amended to require states to address disproportionate confinement of minority juveniles. At the same time the federal agenda and the voices of reformers were calling for deinstitutionalization procedures and more prevention, the states seemed to be moving in the opposite direction (Schwartz, 1989). Between 1978 and 1981, lawmakers in nearly half the states enacted some form of tougher legislation with regard to handling serious and chronic juvenile offenders. In a handful of states, provisions included making it easier to prosecute juveniles in adult court by lowering the age of judicial waiver (three states); excluding certain offenses from juvenile court juris-
OCR for page 162
JUVENILE CRIME diction (four states); and enacting mandatory minimums or sentencing guidelines for juveniles (three states). The impact of these reforms was an increase in the detention rate on any given day by more than 50 percent between 1977 and 1985. In response to public concern over crime, in particular violent crime, committed by children and adolescents, almost all states now have made these kinds of changes to the laws governing their juvenile justice systems since the early 1990s. These changes are described following a description of the current juvenile justice system processes. THE JUVENILE JUSTICE SYSTEM IN THE 1990s Juvenile justice systems vary greatly by jurisdiction. The organization of courts, case processing procedures, and juvenile corrections facilities are determined by state law. Most juvenile courts have jurisdiction over criminal delinquency, abuse and neglect, and status offense delinquency cases. Criminal delinquency cases are those in which a child has committed an act that would be a crime if committed by an adult. Status offense delinquency cases are acts that would be legal for an adult, but are not allowed for juveniles, such as truancy, running away, incorrigibility (i.e., habitually disobeying reasonable and lawful commands of a parent, guardian, or custodian; also referred to in various statutes as unruly, uncontrollable, or ungovernable), or curfew violations. Some courts also have responsibility for other types of cases involving children, such as dependency, termination of parental rights, juvenile traffic cases, adoption, child support, emancipation, and consent cases (e.g., consent for a minor to marry, have an abortion, enlist in the armed services, or be employed). Before any court processes come into play, a juvenile must be referred to the court. Referrals may be made by the police, parents, schools, social service agencies, probation officers, and victims. Law enforcement agencies account for the vast majority—86 percent in 1996—of delinquency referrals (Stahl et al., 1999).3 The police are the principal gatekeepers of the justice system and play a central role in the processing of youths in both the criminal and juvenile justice systems. They have a great deal of contact with youthful offenders and at-risk youth, perhaps more than any other officials do in the justice system. Most of these contacts are undocumented and of low visibility (Goldstein, 1960); only a fraction reach the attention of juvenile court judges or youth detention authorities. 3 An analysis by panel member Steven Schlossman of Los Angeles juvenile court from 1920 to 1950 found that 63 percent of referrals were from police.
OCR for page 163
JUVENILE CRIME There is scant empirical data on police encounters with juveniles (Black and Reiss, 1970; Lundman et al., 1978; Wordes and Bynum, 1995). A study by Sealock and Simpson (1998), based on an analysis of Philadelphia birth cohort data in which police contacts with juveniles from 1968 through 1975 were recorded, is one of the few that deals with juveniles ' encounters with police. To further understand the nature of police interactions with juveniles, the panel commissioned an analysis by Worden and Myers (1999) of the data involving juveniles from the Project on Policing Neighborhoods, a multimethod study of police patrols in two cities (Indianapolis, Indiana, and St. Petersburg, Florida). The study involved systematic social observations of patrol officers in the field by trained observers who accompanied officers during their entire work shifts. Observations were based on spatial and temporal sampling, with shifts representing all times of the day and all days of the week. Data were gathered during summer 1996 in Indianapolis and summer 1997 in St. Petersburg. Observers recorded more than 7,000 encounters involving approximately 12,000 citizens. Of these encounters, 421 involved one or more citizens (a total of 626) who appeared to be under 18 years of age and who were treated by the police as suspected offenders. An encounter was defined as “any event in which there is face-to-face communication between a police officer and a member of the public” (Worden and Myers, 1999:13). Consistent with past research, most of the encounters involved incidents of relatively low seriousness; 55 percent were for public disorder (e.g., disorderly behavior and loitering), nonviolent crimes (e.g., shoplifting and other theft), and traffic offenses. Less than one-tenth of the encounters concerned violent crimes. It appears that police may be initiating more of the encounters than in the past. Worden and Myers (1999) reported that previous research (primarily conducted in the 1960s and 1970s) found that the majority of police encounters with juveniles resulted from a request from a victim or complainant, and only one-quarter to one-third of encounters were initiated by the police themselves. In the study, half of the encounters with juveniles were initiated by the police. This finding may indicate an increase in proactive policing, although direct comparisons with past research are hindered by differences in measurement and sampling. The existence of a juvenile curfew in Indianapolis gave police in that city authority to stop juveniles after hours and contributed to a high percentage (61 compared with 37 percent in St. Petersburg) of their encounters with juveniles being police-initiated. Worden and Myers (1999) found that only 13 percent of the encounters ended with the arrest of the juvenile(s). Table 5-1 shows the frequency with which each disposition in these encounters was the most authoritative that the police took. The categories are listed from least
OCR for page 164
JUVENILE CRIME TABLE 5-1 Disposition of Police Encounters with Juveniles and Adults Disposition Juveniles (%) Adults (%) Release 18.5 22.5 Advise 10.4 9.4 Search/interrogate 25.1 26.5 Command/threaten 33.2 27.5 Arrest 13.1 14.2 restrictive (release) to most restrictive (arrest). Over half (56 percent) of the encounters involve interrogation and/or searching of the suspects. As the table shows, dispositions were similarly distributed in police encounters with adults. Worden and Myers (1999) analyzed factors that affected the likelihood of arrest in juvenile encounters with police. Arrests were significantly more likely when there was strong evidence against a suspect and when the offense was a serious one. The likelihood of arrest more than doubled when a juvenile showed disrespect for the police officer. Possession of a weapon also increased the likelihood of arrest. Female juveniles were significantly less likely to be arrested, independent of other factors, including seriousness of offense.4 Worden and Myers concluded that “the situational factors on which research on police behavior has dwelt do not suffice to account for arrest decisions, however, and they are of even less value in explaining officers' choices among nonarrest alternatives” (1999:31). Once a juvenile is taken into custody, it appears as if police are less likely now to deal informally with him or her than in the past. About 22 percent of juveniles taken into custody by police were handled informally within the department and released in 1998, compared with 45 percent in 1970 (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 1999); 69 percent of juveniles taken into police custody in 1998 ended up in juvenile court and 7 percent in criminal (adult) court. Although there are many differences among juvenile courts in case processing, there are stages that they all must go through: intake, petitioning, adjudication, and disposition. Figure 5-1 provides a simplified view of case flow through the juvenile justice system. Cases that are referred to the court are screened through an intake process, in which charges are delineated. In some systems, this process is done within the 4 Information on the Worden and Myers analysis of differences by race appears in Chapter 6.
OCR for page 217
JUVENILE CRIME Sentencing One reason given for transferring juveniles to criminal court is that the juvenile court cannot provide adequate sanctions for some offenses. Research on the likelihood and length of sentence in criminal versus juvenile court has mixed results. Brown and Langan (1998), in a national sample, found that a higher percentage of juveniles transferred to adult court were sentenced to incarceration than were those who remained in juvenile court: 63 percent of juveniles transferred to criminal court were sentenced to prison terms and 16 percent to jail terms. Prison sentences averaged 9.25 years. Only 21 percent were given probation. In comparison, only 31 percent of juveniles found guilty of person offenses in juvenile court were sentenced to out-of-home placement, and 53 percent were put on probation (Stahl et al., 1999). A comparison of robbery and burglary cases in New Jersey and New York suggested that processing juveniles in the criminal court resulted in higher rates of incarceration, but not lengthier sentences than processing in the juvenile court (Fagan, 1995). Fagan also found higher rates of rearrest and reincarceration among young people processed for robbery in the criminal courts than in the juvenile courts; no such differences were found for burglary cases. A comparison of cases transferred to adult court with those adjudicated in juvenile court in St. Louis found that transferred youth did not receive greater punishment than they would have received in juvenile court (Kinder et al., 1995). The U.S. General Accounting Office (1995a) study of transferred juveniles found great variability in incarceration rates by state. In Vermont, for example, one-third of juveniles convicted of violent, property, or drug crimes in criminal court were incarcerated, while Minnesota incarcerated over 90 percent of the transferred juveniles convicted of those three types of crime. Pennsylvania incarcerated 90 percent of transferred juveniles in violent and drug offense cases, but only 10 percent in property cases. There is some evidence that length of sentence varies in the juvenile and adult systems according to type of offense. For example, Podkopacz and Feld (1996) found in their Hennepin County, Minnesota study that for youths adjudicated of property offenses, the juvenile courts imposed longer sentences than did the criminal courts, while youths convicted of violent offenses in criminal courts received substantially longer sentences than their juvenile counterparts. Length of sentence and actual length of stay in a facility may differ, however. The length of stay in a juvenile facility appears, on average, to be much shorter than that in adult prison. Although national data on length of sentences given in juvenile court are not available, national average length of stay in long-term juvenile facili-
OCR for page 218
JUVENILE CRIME ties was about 8 months in 1990 (Parent et al., 1994) and was down to about 4 months in 1995 (Smith, 1998). There appears to be variation by state in length of stay, however, with some states well above the national average. For example, in California, the average length of stay in Youth Authority institutions was 25.7 months in fiscal year 1997-1998 (California Youth Authority, 1997-1998); in Texas, the average length of stay in Texas Youth Commission facilities was 23 months for violent offenders (Criminal Justice Policy Council, 1999) and 16.5 months for all offenders in fiscal year 1999 (special data analysis done by the Criminal Justice Policy Council for this report). The California and Texas figures are similar to lengths of stay in reform schools in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. An analysis was prepared by panel member Steven Schlossman of length of stay in Michigan's Lansing Industrial School for boys and in the New York House of Refuge. In the Michigan reform school, average length of stay was 29 months in the 1870s, dropping to 21 months in the 1890s. In the New York House of Refuge, the average length of stay in 1925 was 20 months. Because there are no national historical figures, it is impossible to tell if the national average length of stay is similar to or has actually dropped considerably over the course of the past century. Recidivism Studies have found higher recidivism rates among juveniles who had been transferred to adult court than among those who remained in the juvenile system, even when severity of offense was controlled (Podkopacz and Feld, 1996); the researchers concluded that transfer to adult court may be more likely to increase recidivism than to lessen it (Bishop et al., 1996; Fagan, 1995; Winner et al., 1997). These studies have noted that the higher recidivism rates may be attributable to a number of possible factors: the juvenile system may have correctly identified and consequently transferred youths likely to recidivate; law enforcement may be more vigilant of youths who had been through the adult court; treatment in the juvenile system may have been effective in preventing repeat offending; or adult incarceration may have encouraged further criminality. More research is needed to replicate these studies and to determine the effects on subsequent recidivism of processing in the juvenile versus the adult systems. Studies in New York (Singer and McDowall, 1988) and Idaho (Jensen and Metsger, 1994) on the general deterrent effects of legislative waiver statutes indicate that waiver laws in those two states did not have a deterrent effect on rates of juvenile violent crime. Levitt (1998) examined the relationship between the relative punitiveness of the juvenile and adult systems and arrest rates. Using state-level
OCR for page 219
JUVENILE CRIME panel data from the censuses of public and private juvenile facilities and censuses of adult prisons collected by the Department of Justice for the period 1978-1993, he found that in states in which the adult system was more punitive12 than the juvenile system, violent crime rates decreased significantly at the age of majority. In states in which the adult system was more lenient than the juvenile system, violent crime rates increased at the age of majority. This suggests that it is the relative punitiveness of the system, not whether it is the juvenile or adult system per se, that may deter crime among young people in the short term. Levitt did not find any long-term relationship between the punitiveness of the sanctions imposed on juveniles and their adult criminal behavior. Blended Sentences The number of juveniles affected by blended sentencing is not known on a national level. There is some information at the state level, suggesting that blended sentencing may result in relatively lengthy sentences. For example, in 1996 in Texas, the average blended sentence imposed for all offenses was 10.5 years, ranging from an average of 5 years for burglary to 31 years for capital murder (Texas law permits blended sentences up to 40 years). The percentage of commitments to the Texas Youth Commission that were blended sentences increased from about 2 percent in 1990 to nearly 8 percent in 1996. The addition of 16 offenses eligible for blended sentencing in 1996 led to an increase from 4.7 percent of commitments in 1995 to 7.6 percent in 1996. The majority of juveniles receiving blended sentences in 1996 in Texas were Hispanic (42 percent) and black (32 percent). Nearly one-third of those receiving blended sentences in 1996 were 14 years old or younger (Criminal Justice Policy Council, 1997). The impact of these laws on ultimate sanctions for juveniles sentenced under them will not be known for some years to come; this is an area that is ripe for research to begin. The effect of these legislative changes, overall, appears to be an increase in the number of juveniles held in adult state prisons. That is not to say that all juveniles who are tried as adults and found guilty end up in adult prison. States have adopted a variety of means to deal with sanctioning these juveniles, including blended sentences that allow juveniles to begin serving time in a juvenile facility and finish their sentence in an adult facility. Some states (e.g., Texas, New York) have created special secure facilities under the auspices of the juvenile or adult corrections 12 Levitt defined punitiveness as the number of juveniles (adults) in custody per reported violent crime by juveniles (adults).
OCR for page 220
JUVENILE CRIME department to house youth found guilty in criminal court. Nevertheless, some of the juveniles sentenced as adults are incarcerated in adult prisons, where the emphasis is on punishment and few services are available. Youth in Adult Prisons Between 1985 and 1997, the number of offenders under 18 admitted to state prisons more than doubled, from 3,400 in 1985 to 7,400 in 1997 (Strom, 2000). And 61 percent of those under 18 sent to state prison in 1997 had been convicted of a violent offense. Juveniles arrested for violent offenses are more likely to end up in state prison now than in 1985. In 1997, 33 of every 1,000 juveniles arrested for a violent crime were sentenced to prison, compared with 18 per 1,000 in 1985. Nearly two-fifths of the juveniles sent to state prison in 1997, however, were not there for violent offenses—22 percent had been convicted of a property offense, 11 percent of a drug offense, and 5 percent of a public order offense (Strom, 2000). Juveniles remain a very small percentage of the total state prison population. Those under 18 make up less than 1 percent of the inmates in state prisons, a figure that has remained steady since the mid-1980s. Since 1985, juveniles have consistently made up about 2 percent of new admissions to state prisons (Strom, 2000). Minority juveniles are disproportionately represented among juveniles sent to adult prison. In 1997, minorities made up three-quarters of juveniles admitted to adult state prisons,13 with blacks accounting for 58 percent, Hispanics 15 percent, and Asians and American Indians 2 percent (Strom, 2000). Males accounted for 92 percent of the juveniles admitted to state prisons in 1997. Based on current sentencing and release policies, prison officials estimate that 78 percent of those who were admitted to prison prior to their 18th birthday would be released by age 21 and 93 percent would be released by age 28 (Strom, 2000). The fact that 90 percent of juveniles admitted to prison had not completed high school, coupled with the paucity of services available to them in adult prison, does not bode well for their reentry into society. Historical Perspective To provide some historical perspective on juveniles in state prison, panel member Steven Schlossman analyzed a detailed sample of prison- 13 In 1997, minorities accounted of two-thirds of juveniles committed to public juvenile residential facilities (Snyder and Sickmund, 1999).
OCR for page 221
JUVENILE CRIME ers at San Quentin and Folsom prisons in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.14 Between the 1870s and the 1930s, mid-teens were committed to San Quentin and Folsom prisons, but in very small numbers and percentages. The largest shares were in the 1870s to 1890s, when 3.7 percent of the inmates were between ages 14 and 17. With the creation of California 's juvenile court in 1903 and reform schools for juvenile offenders (see, Schlossman, 1989, for historical details), juveniles under age 18 were eliminated entirely from Folsom by the 1910s. Juveniles under age 16 were eliminated from San Quentin and those ages 16 and 17 declined to less than 1 percent of the inmate population in the 1910s and afterward. This is similar to the percentage of juveniles in adult prisons nationally today (Strom, 2000). Racial and ethnic minority groups (black, Hispanic, Chinese, Hawaiian, American Indian, Japanese) were represented among the mid-teens committed to San Quentin and Folsom prisons, but only in two decades was there notable overrepresentation of any group: the Chinese in the 1870s, at the height of anti-Chinese period in California; and Hispanics in the 1930s, a period of severe deprivation and outmigration of Mexicans from California following large-scale immigration in the 1920s. Overall, race does not appear to have been a significant factor in influencing commitment patterns to state prison. Whites, not minorities, constituted the overwhelming majority of both mid-teen and adult offenders sent to San Quentin and Folsom prisons between the 1870s and the 1930s (see Table 5-6). Just as today, a substantial percentage of juveniles in San Quentin and Folsom prisons were sentenced for property offenses (burglary and theft) rather than violent offenses against persons (murder, robbery, assault, rape). Over two-thirds of 14- and 15-year-olds in these two state prisons in the late 19th century were sentenced for property crimes. In the early 20th century—when the share of juveniles in adult prison declined considerably—a new pattern of commitment began to emerge. Their offense profile became significantly more violent; it became as common for juveniles sent to San Quentin or Folsom to have committed a person offense as a property offense. Nonetheless, half of the juveniles who were sent to these state prisons had been committed for property rather than person offenses. The average length of sentence for juveniles committed to San Quentin and Folsom prisons in the 19th century was 3.5 years (compared to under 2 years for reform schools), much shorter than the 6.8 year national average for juveniles in state prisons in 1997 (Strom, 2000). By the 1920s to 14 The panel thanks Gary Gates, Carnegie Mellon University, for assisting member Steven Schlossman with the analysis of these data.
OCR for page 222
JUVENILE CRIME TABLE 5-6 Race Distribution (Weighted Percentages) by Decade for Those Under 18 and Those Age 18 and Older in San Quentin and Folsom Prisons Race 1870s 1880s 1890s 1900s 1910s 1920s 1930s All Decades Under age 18 White 57.0 74.8 93.2 73.2 100.0 73.6 57.4 70.7 Black 0.0 7.6 3.4 11.1 0.0 9.9 0.0 5.1 Hispanic 15.5 7.1 3.4 6.5 0.0 16.5 42.6a 14.4 Chinese 24.4 8.1 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 7.2 Other Asian 0.0 2.4 0.0 4.6 0.0 0.0 0.0 1.0 Other 3.1 0.0 0.0 4.6 0.0 0.0 0.0 1.6 Total 45 39 28 16 2 7 5 142 18 and older White 71.3 77.2 83.2 84.0 78.3 78.3 75.1 77.7 Black 1.5 2.5 3.9 4.9 5.2 7.6 8.9 6.1 Hispanic 8.8 8.4 7.0 7.6 13.6 10.6 11.1a 10.5 Chinese 16.1 10.3 4.7 1.5 0.5 1.1 1.2 3.2 Other Asian 0.2 0.1 0.3 0.8 1.2 1.5 3.4 1.5 Other 2.1 1.5 0.9 1.3 1.3 0.9 0.4 1.0 Total 950 949 960 968 985 979 974 6765 a Apart from the small number of observations in the sample of those under age 18, we cannot readily explain the disparity between Hispanic commitments under age 18 and 18 and older in the 1930s. Source: Analysis by panel member Steven Schlossman. 1930s, the average sentence length for juveniles more than doubled to 8 years, more comparable to today's average. CONCLUSIONS The origin of the juvenile court reflects an abiding tension between safeguarding children and protecting society. This tension has been present historically and continues to be present today in the policy debates dealing with the juvenile justice system. The balance between rehabilitative goals and concerns about the best interests of the child, on one hand, and punishment, incapacitation, and protecting public safety, on the other, has shifted over time and differed significantly from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Given the local nature of juvenile justice in the United States, there has never been a single dominant vision of how to deal with delinquent children in law or in practice. The delinquency jurisdiction of the
OCR for page 223
JUVENILE CRIME juvenile courts today, as in the past, continues to include both children who break criminal laws and children who commit status delinquency offenses. Policies of the last decade have become more punitive toward delinquent juveniles, but especially toward juveniles who commit violent crimes. Punitive policies include easier waivers to adult court, excluding certain offenses from juvenile court jurisdiction, blended juvenile and adult sentences, increased authority to prosecutors to decide to file cases in adult court, and more frequent custodial placement of adjudicated delinquents. The great majority of recent changes in juvenile justice law and practice have not been evaluated. Research to date shows that juveniles transferred to adult court may be more likely to recidivate than those who remain under juvenile court jurisdiction. Furthermore, there are negative effects of detention and incarceration of juveniles on behavior and future developmental trajectories. Detained and incarcerated juveniles have higher rates of physical injury, mental health problems, and suicide attempts and have poorer educational outcomes than do their counterparts who are treated in the community. Detention and incarceration also cause severe and long-term problems with future employment, leaving ex-offenders with few economic alternatives to crime. Recent research also demonstrates that many serious as well as nonserious offenders can be treated in the community without endangering public safety. At the same time that laws have become more punitive, innovative approaches to providing services within the juvenile justice system have been introduced. In addition, a fair amount of evaluation research on some programs has been undertaken. Contrary to those who claim that rehabilitative efforts are a waste of time because nothing works, efforts at diverting children and adolescents from detention or incarceration and providing services for them in the community show some promise. Research on treatment programs in correctional institutions suggests that cognitive-behavioral, skill-oriented, and multimodal programs have the best results in terms of recidivism reduction. Research on intensive after-care programs is less conclusive, but it seems clear that delinquent juveniles require more than just intensive surveillance and control to affect rates of future offending and help them successfully reintegrate into society. Experiments with the restorative justice model point to ways in which juvenile offenders can be held responsible for their offenses, make restitution to victims, and receive services aimed at reintegrating them into society. Information about the number of juveniles in custody—in detention or juvenile correctional facilities—is very poor. Data on the conditions under which juveniles are incarcerated and the types of services available to them are minimal. From the available data, it appears that the rate of juveniles placed in custodial institutions has increased substantially in
OCR for page 224
JUVENILE CRIME the past two decades, leading to widespread overcrowding in detention and correctional facilities. The average length of stay, nationally, in public custodial institutions appears to have decreased. There is a great deal of variety by state, however, in average length of stay in long-term public facilities, with some states reporting average stays that are well above the national norm. The trend toward privatization of juvenile correctional facilities may further complicate understanding of juveniles in custody. RECOMMENDATIONS Being placed in secure detention disrupts a young person's life and increases the juvenile's likelihood of receiving formal processing and punitive sanctions. Secure detention and correctional facilities have become increasingly crowded, impairing their ability to provide adequate services to their heterogeneous populations. Overcrowded conditions also increase the risk of injury to both staff and juveniles. Research on alternatives to secure detention and confinement have found them to pose no greater risks to the public than secure detention or confinement. In addition, alternatives to detention or confinement tend to be less costly. Recommendation: The federal government should assist the states through federal funding and incentives to reduce the use of secure detention and secure confinement, by developing community-based alternatives. The effectiveness of such programs both for the protection of the community and the benefit of the youth in their charge should be monitored. Research has shown that treating most juvenile offenders within the community does not compromise public safety and may even improve it through reduced recidivism. Considering the negative effects of detention and incarceration, community-based treatment should be expanded. Evaluation components should be built into program delivery with the goal of improving services, expanding the use of programs that work, and ending support for programs that are shown to be ineffective. Replication of programs that have been found successful, such as treatment foster care or multisystemic therapy, is particularly important to advancing knowledge about what works and for whom. Recommendation: Federal and state funding should be provided to replicate successful research-based community-based treatment programs for all types of offenders with continuing evaluations to ensure their safety and efficacy under the specific circumstances of their application.
OCR for page 225
JUVENILE CRIME OJJDP sponsors a biennial Census of Juveniles in Residential Placement that provides minimum information. This instrument identifies juveniles in custody on the specific date of the survey and therefore over samples juveniles in long-term confinement. Furthermore, neither this instrument nor the newly designed Juvenile Residential Facility Census (begun in October 2000), which collects basic data on size, structure, security arrangements, and ownership of facilities designed to house juveniles, as well as information about the provision of health care, education, substance abuse treatment, and mental health treatment in those facilities, yields information about children or youth housed in jails, adult institutions, or mental hospital facilities. OJJDP is planning a Survey of Youth in Residential Placement that will help to inform the public about conditions of confinement. It should be a matter of public accountability for facilities that hold juveniles in secure confinement to report on a regular basis on the conditions under which those juveniles are kept and the types of services provided. Recommendation: The Congress should provide adequate funds to OJJDP and the Bureau of Justice Statistics in order to assure proper data collection on conditions of confinement as well as new funds to develop national data collection systems to measure the number and characteristics of children and adolescents outside the juvenile jurisdictions, those transferred to criminal court, and those held in adult prisons or jails. Despite the large amount of descriptive literature about the juvenile justice system, little research has identified how different laws regarding juvenile crime or different practices in confinement affect juveniles in the juvenile justice system. For example, do behavioral modification programs used in secure facilities have an influence on behavior of juveniles after release? Are there long-term effects of isolation used as punishment for disobedient juveniles in confinement? Are there special benefits for particular educational programs carried out in juvenile institutions? Studies of a variety of policies and practices should be undertaken, with evaluations of psychological, educational, and physical effects on the juveniles, as well as measures of recidivism. Recommendation: The federal government should assist the states in evaluating the effects of correctional policies and practices such as the use of behavior modification programs, physical restraints, and isolation on incarcerated juveniles, as well as determining the effectiveness of educational and psychological programming in correctional facilities.
OCR for page 226
JUVENILE CRIME The American Correctional Association has set minimum standards that facilities for juveniles should meet, but there is little information on the extent to which these standards are met, nor have the standards been evaluated to determine their impact on incarcerated juveniles. An evaluation of these standards in conjunction with on-going work by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention on performance-based standards in juvenile corrections would lead to the development of standards that improve outcomes for juveniles who are incarcerated. Recommendation: Congress should provide funds for an independent evaluation of the adequacy of the American Correctional Association standards for juvenile detention and correctional facilities to ensure that the needs of juveniles in these facilities are met. The evaluation should include both short- and long-term effects on juveniles. States should be encouraged to adopt those parts of the standards that prove to be effective. Knowledge about the operations of the juvenile justice system and the effects of a juvenile's involvement with the system is completely inadequate. Much remains to be learned at all stages of processing in the system, from the interaction of juveniles and the police, to the factors considered by various juvenile justice system personnel in decision making, to the effects of juvenile justice system involvement on juveniles' development and future life course. Many areas of juvenile justice system policy currently must rely on anecdotal evidence and best guesses. Recommendation: Congress should provide funding for the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, in collaboration with other relevant federal agencies (such as National Institute for Mental Health, National Institute on Child Health and Human Development), to develop a research agenda with the goal of expanding knowledge needed for policy making in the following areas: How police decisions and current police practices affect the number, type, and outcomes of juveniles in the system; The nature of decisions made in juvenile court by various professionals, including probation officers, judges, prosecutors, and other key actors; The extent, systemic effects, costs, and cost-effectiveness of the various possible dispositions of juvenile cases; Long-term effects of transferring juveniles to adult court and incarcerating them in adult facilities;
OCR for page 227
JUVENILE CRIME The effect of using informal sanctions for juveniles committing first offenses if they are not serious crimes. The benefits and disadvantages of secure confinement versus providing services in the community; and Identifying appropriate treatments for female juveniles.
Representative terms from entire chapter: