for status delinquency cases (Snyder and Sickmund, 1999). Males are detained at a rate six times higher than females, and blacks are detained at eight times the rate of whites (Wordes and Jones, 1998).
The two generally accepted uses of preadjudication detention are to ensure that a juvenile will show up for his or her hearing and to prevent reoffending prior to adjudication. However, detention is also used as punishment, protection, and as a place to keep juveniles when more appropriate placements are unavailable (Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, 1997). Intake workers and juvenile judges have a great deal of discretion in deciding whether to place a juvenile in detention. Several studies found evidence that detention rates varied in direct proportion to the availability of detention facilities (Kramer and Steffensmeier, 1978; Lerman, 1977; Pawlak, 1977). Anecdotal evidence suggests that whether a juvenile in crisis is kept in detention or sent to a mental health facility may depend on whether the juvenile's family has health insurance to cover private psychological or psychiatric treatment. The result of the use of detention for such diverse reasons is that a juvenile who has run away from an abusive home may be placed in detention alongside a juvenile awaiting trial for violent crimes.
Detention can be quite disruptive to children's and adolescents' lives. It separates them from their families, friends, and support systems, and it interrupts their schooling. Although some detention centers have many services in place to assess and treat physical and mental health problems and behavioral problems and to provide educational services, the scope and quality of services varies greatly from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. In addition, many detention centers have become overcrowded, jeopardizing their ability to provide services. Nearly 70 percent of children in public detention centers are in facilities operating above their designed capacity (Smith, 1998). Overcrowded conditions have been found to be associated with increased altercations between juveniles and staff and increased injuries to juveniles (Wordes and Jones, 1998). Even under the best of circumstances, providing services to an ever-changing, heterogeneous group of young people can be difficult. The average length of stay in juvenile detention centers is 15 days, but many youngsters may be there for only a few days, while some are there for much longer periods (Parent et al., 1994). For marginal students, even a few days of school missed because of detention may increase their educational difficulties.
The negative effects of being in detention and the overcrowded conditions in many detention centers have led to investigations of alternatives to detention. Table 5-3 summarizes the evaluations of alternatives to detention programs discussed in this section. A study in North Carolina (Land et al., 1998) examined 19 alternatives to detention programs around the state. The programs varied from site to site, but all were characterized