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;

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