A STATISTICAL VIEW OF THE JUVENILE JUSTICE SYSTEM Najja A. Wells California State University, Dominguez Hills Author Note Najja A. Wells, Department of Public Administration, California State University Dominguez Hills Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Najja A. Wells, Department of Public Administration, California State University, Dominguez Hills 1000 E. Victoria Street, Carson, CA 90747 (310)243-3696 Email: [email protected] csudh. edu Policy/Issue
America’s youth are faced with an ever-changing set of problems and barriers to successful lives. As a result, we are constantly met with the task of developing enlightened policies and programs to address the needs and risks of those youth that enter our juvenile justice system. The policies we create must be based on facts, not fears or negative assumptions. This document will take a look at the current and former statistics of the juvenile justice system in California and the nation in the years ranging from 1995 until present time.
Statistics gathered from an array of sources provide insight of the issues of the juvenile system including disparities in racial representation, trends in criminal behavior of juvenile offenders, methods of entrance into the system, gender and age variations in crimes committed, as well as statistics on the demographic, sociological, and economic factors that are indirectly or directly related to juvenile victimization and crime.
Together, these statistics dispel common perceptions of the increase in the rate and proportion of young juveniles entering the system, and provide an informed view of the actualities of the juvenile crime rate and juvenile justice system. Background The juvenile justice system was created in the late 1800s to reform U. S. policies regarding youth offenders. “The juvenile court was founded at the turn of this century as a specialized institution for dealing with dependent, neglected, and delinquent minors.
Its guiding principle was parens patrie, a medieval English doctrine that allowed the Crown to supplant natural family relations whenever a child’s welfare was at stake—in other words, to become a substitute parent. ” (Greenwood, Lipson, Abrahamse, & Zimring, 1983). Since that time, a number of reforms – aimed at both protecting the “due process of law” rights of youth, and creating an aversion toward jail among the young – have made the juvenile justice system more comparable to the adult system, a shift from the United State’s original intent.
The juvenile justice system along with other numerous U. S. programs and systems has undergone many periods of change and reform. The reform and social change of the juvenile justice system begun with the Progressive Era reforms and continued with the “In re Gault” Supreme Court decision of 1967, the Juvenile Delinquency and Prevention and Control Act of 1968, the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Control Act of 1974, and the modern “Get Tough on Crime” legislation. The most prominent and altering reform phase was in 1974.
By 1974, the United States had developed a strong momentum toward preventing juvenile delinquency, deinstitutionalizing youth already in the system, and keeping juvenile offenders separate from adult offenders. The Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act of 1974 created the following entities: The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), The Runaway Youth Program, and The National Institute for Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (NIJJDP). History of America’s, 2008) The act of 1974 also offered grants to encourage states to develop community-based programs as alternatives to institutionalization. Law enforcement experimented with the introduction of community-based correctional facilities, such as group homes and halfway houses. (Child or Adult, 2010) The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) compiles arrest information provided by law enforcement agencies each year and creates reports examining the trends, rates and statistics of uvenile criminal activity. Every four years the OJJDP publishes a comprehensive study as part of its Juvenile Offenders and Victims National Report Series. The arrest statistics found in these studies are useful for comparing general trends. Existing Problems One of the major and probably most widely known and controversial issues within the juvenile justice system is the apparent disproportional representation of minority offenders in juvenile arrests and delinquency cases.
A number of recent surveys have shown that there are profound racial disparities in the juvenile justice system, and that African-American and Hispanic youth are more likely to be tried as adults. They are more likely to receive longer sentences; they’re more likely to be in locked facilities, and on and on and on, even when charged with the same offense as whites. Statistically, race plays a role in the types of crime in which youth become involved. The OJJDP, in its reporting, chronicles how many arrests are made in each of four racial categories – white (includes Hispanic youth), black, American-Indian, and Asian.
The study charts arrest rates among different racial groups for specified juvenile crimes. It also compares arrest rates with population rates, and follows arrest rates over time. According to the Juvenile Offender and Victims 2006 National Report, black youth, who accounted for 16% of the juvenile population in 2003, were involved in a disproportionate number of juvenile arrests for robbery (63%), murder (48%), motor vehicle theft (40%), and aggravated assault (38%).
The December 2001 bulletin of the Juvenile Offenders and Victims National Report Series published the following statistics on crime in 1999: White youth were arrested for 72 percent of the crime and made up 79 percent of the youth population; black youth were arrested for 25 percent of the crime and made up 16 percent of the youth population, American Indian youth composed 1 percent of the juvenile population and were arrested for 1 percent of the crime, and youth of Asian descent composed 4 percent of the juvenile population and were arrested for 2 percent of the crime (Juvenile crimes demographics, 2008).
When looking at the numbers, it appears that juveniles of white descent are actually the ones with a disproportionate representation in the system. This is however untrue. Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) data do not distinguish the ethnic group Hispanic; Hispanics may be of any race. In 2003, 92% of Hispanics ages 10–17 were classified racially as white (Snyder and Sickmund, 2006). Although a majority of delinquency cases handled in 2002 involved white youth (1,086,700 or 67%), a disproportionate number of cases involved blacks (473,100 or 29%), given their proportion of the juvenile population.
In 2002, white youth made up 78% of the juvenile population (youth ages 10 through the upper age of juvenile court jurisdiction in each state), black youth 16%, and youth of other races 6% (Snyder and Sickmund, 2006). The issue of racial disparities is by far not a new concept. A report submitted to the Florida Supreme Court Racial and Ethnic Bias Study Commission in 1990 by two gentlemen D. M. Bishop and C. E. Frazier, revealed that race (if non-white) did make a difference with regard to outcome decisions.
According to Bishop and Frazier: “Nonwhite juveniles processed for delinquency offenses in 1987 received more severe (i. e. , more formal and/or restrictive) dispositions than their white counterparts at several stages of juvenile processing. Specifically, we found that when juvenile offenders were alike in terms of age, gender, seriousness of the offense which prompted the current referral, and seriousness of their prior records, the probability of receiving the harshest disposition available at each of several processing stages was higher for nonwhite than for white youth.
These disparities were found to exist for petition, secure detention, commitment to an institution, and transfers to an adult court. ” (Pope and Feyerherm, 1995). Concern with racial disparity in the juvenile justice system extends to both sides of the bench. Bridget Jones, former supervisor of the juvenile division of the Santa Clara County Public Defender’s Office said, “The system is not fair. Institutional racism is alive and well in the juvenile justice system, as it is in the criminal justice system.
It’s easier to identify with people that are more like yourself, so if you have judges that are predominantly from that same community, they can identify. . . . The same thing happens with people who have money versus people who don’t have money–if they can demonstrate a support system that can act as a safety net or think they can act as a safety net for them on the outside; judges are more prone to buy into that. ” (Is the system, 2010). The supervising deputy district attorney for the Juvenile Division of the Santa Clara County’s District Attorney’s office, Kurt Kumli, concurs with his statement: “You can’t go into any ourtroom in this state and take a look at the kids that are in custody and the kids that are out of custody and deny that there is racial disparity in the juvenile justice system. … I think there are a number of reasons why there are racial disparities in the system. The law is skewed with respect to the social factors that are considered, in terms of making a determination of who gets locked up and who doesn’t. And since it is skewed in such a way as to essentially favor more affluent kids or to punish kids that are less affluent, that have racial and ethnic consequences. (Is the system, 2010)? Another issue within the juvenile justice system is the inaccuracy of the true amount of juvenile criminal activity. Official records often under represent juvenile delinquent behavior. Many juveniles who commit offenses are never arrested or are not arrested for all their delinquencies. As a result, official records systematically underestimate the scope of juvenile crime. In addition, to the extent that other factors may influence the types of crimes or offenders that enter the justice system, official records may also distort the attributes of juvenile crime.
Although official records may be inadequate measures of the level of juvenile offending, they do monitor justice system activity. Analysis of variations in official statistics across time and jurisdictions provides an understanding of justice system caseloads. (Snyder and Sickmund, 2006). An alternative method used to gain insight of juvenile delinquent behavior is through self-report studies. Self-report studies ask victims or offenders to report on their experiences and behaviors. Self-report studies can capture information on behavior that never comes to the attention of juvenile justice agencies. Compared with official studies, self-report studies find a much higher proportion of the juvenile population involved in delinquent behavior. Self-report studies, however, have their own limitations. A youth’s memory limits the information that can be captured. This, along with other problems associated with interviewing young children, is the reason that the National Crime Victimization Survey does not attempt to interview children below age 12. Some victims and offenders are also unwilling to disclose all law violations.
Finally, it is often difficult for self-report studies to collect data from large enough samples to develop a sufficient understanding of relatively are events, such as serious violent offending. ” (Snyder and Sickmund, 2006). Age and gender representation and differences in the system is possibly one of the smallest issues within the juvenile justice system. On the whole, far fewer juvenile females than males commit crimes. In 1999, females accounted for only 27 percent of juvenile arrests. In 2000, they accounted for 28 percent of juvenile arrests.
Females were most involved in: prostitution/commercialized vice arrests, embezzlement arrests, theft arrests, and runaway arrests. Juvenile females were least involved in rape arrests, sexual offense (excluding rape and prostitution), and gambling and robbery arrests. The arrest rate among young women did not experience the peak and fall that characterized male juvenile arrests during the 1990s. Instead, female juvenile arrest rates have steadily grown for the past 20 years. (Juvenile Crimes-Demographics, 2008). Juveniles are defined by the OJJDP as youth under the age of 18.
In 1999, the year analyzed in the OJJDP’s National Report Series, juveniles composed 17 percent of all U. S. arrests. Youth under the age of 15 made up 32 percent of all juvenile arrests. Youth under the age of 15 were most likely to be arrested for arson, vandalism, or assault cases. Youth between 15 and 17 made up 68 percent of all juvenile arrests. Youth between the ages of 15 and 17 were most likely to be arrested for alcohol and drug violation cases. Theft, simple assault, and drug use crimes represented the highest number of arrests overall. (Juvenile crime-demographics, 2008).
In 2002, the delinquency case rate for 16-year-olds was 1. 6 times the rate for 14-year-olds and the rate for 14-year-olds was 3. 1 times the rate for 12year-olds. The increase in rates between age 13 and age 17 was sharpest for drug offenses; the rate for drug offenses for 17-year-old juveniles was 8 times the rate for 13-year-olds. (Source: Authors’ adaptation of Stahl et al. ’s Juvenile Court Statistics 2001–2002. ) Most delinquency cases involve older teens. High-school-age juveniles (ages 14 and older) made up 80% of the delinquency caseload in 2002, older teens (ages 16 and older) accounted for 42%.
In comparison, middle-school-age juveniles (ages 12 and 13) were involved in 16% of delinquency cases, while juveniles younger than 12 accounted for 5%. (Snyder and Sickmund, 2006). A final major issue that deserves examination within the juvenile justice system is the behavioral, social, and economic factors/ problems that are prevalent in juveniles already in the system and are associated with the expectancy of juvenile delinquency. “A recent study using data from NLSY97 explored the factors associated with a youth’s self-reported law-violating behaviors. One significant factor was a youth’s family structure.
In general, the research showed that juveniles who lived with both biological parents had lower lifetime prevalence of law-violating behaviors than did juveniles who lived in other family types. For example, the study found that 5% of youth age 17 who lived with both biological parents reported ever being in a gang, compared with 12% of youth who lived in other family arrangements. Similarly, youth at age 17 living with both biological parents reported a lower lifetime prevalence, compared with youth living in other types of families, for a wide range of problem behaviors: marijuana use (30% vs. 0%), hard drug use (9% vs. 13%), drug selling (13% vs. 19%), running away from home (13% vs. 25%), vandalism(34% vs. 41%), theft of something worth more than $50 (19% vs. 17%), assault with the intent to seriously injure (20% vs. 35%). Family structure is correlated with a youth’s race and ethnicity; that is, white non-Hispanic youth are more likely to live in families with two biological parents than are black or Hispanic youth. Therefore, patterns that indicate racial or ethnic differences in self-reported behavior may in reality be reflecting differences in family structure. ” (Snyder and Sickmund, 2006).
It is seemingly common belief that juveniles that come from a single-parent household, with more times than often, an incarcerated parent are more likely to become involved in law-violating behaviors. The study also found other factors related to juveniles’ self-reported involvement in law-violating behaviors. The most closely related factor was the presence of friends or family members in gangs. For example, compared with juveniles who did not have friends or families in gangs, those who did were at least 3 times more likely to report having engaged in vandalism, a major theft, a serious assault, carrying a handgun, and selling drugs.
They were also about 3 times more likely to use hard drugs and to run away from home. Connectedness to school and/or work also was related to juveniles’ self-reported law-violating behavior. Juveniles who were neither in school nor working had a significantly greater risk of engaging in a wide range of problem behaviors— using marijuana and hard drugs, running away from home, belonging to a gang, committing a major theft or a serious assault, selling drugs, and carrying a handgun. (Snyder and Sickmund, 2006).
Possible Outcomes if Problem is not solved If the problems within the juvenile justice system are not addressed, and actions are not set forth to reform current policies, the present issues will not only remain, but will become even more pertinent and numbers will continue to increase. New programs have been developed to determine the probability of juvenile delinquency at ages as young as nine (or that of a third grade student). The prison system is a private enterprise that functions on capitalism and profit.
Since these agencies have already created systems to classify children and prepare a place for them in a delinquency center before they even complete elementary education, a continued lack of involvement on all levels of society-parents, schools, community, and government will only act as a catalyst for the continued incarceration of youth. There will be a continuous disparity in racial representation, juveniles will receive harsher punishments because of assumed liability, the age of offenders will have slight change, violent crimes will flourish, and the presence of juvenile females in the system will continue to increase.
Possible Outcomes if the Problem is Solved To better understand how to improve the juvenile justice system, a combination of self-reports and official recorded data must be integrated together. Carefully used, self-report and official statistics provide insight into crime and victimization. Delbert Elliott, Director of the Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence, has argued that to abandon either self-report or official statistics in favor of the other is “rather shortsighted; to systematically ignore the findings of either is dangerous, particularly when the two measures provide apparently contradictory findings. Elliott stated that a full understanding of the etiology and development of delinquent behavior is enhanced by using and integrating both self-report and official record research. (Snyder and Sickmund, 2006). An increase in racially diverse judges and personnel within the court system will encourage a decrease in the conviction and harsh punishments implemented on juveniles of minority backgrounds. In relation to the racial disparities within the juvenile justice system, Judge Ladoris Cordell who erved on the Superior Court of the Santa Clara County offers a solution. She says: “One way is to increase the number of judges on the bench who are judges who look like the people who come before them. So, if I have judges who are African-American, who are Latino or Latina, who are from the Asian-American communities, they are less likely to engage in that kind of stereotyping when some young kid who is of the same background or same ethnic background comes before that judge. . . . The other is, there are judges who are white, black, whatever, who have those biases.
The idea is to address those biases, to get them to address it, which means judicial training. ” Trends The reports generated by the OJJDP, although not infallible in representing crime rates, are effective at showing trends and general patterns. The following patterns in juvenile crime have been particularly interesting: * Since 1994 most arrest rates have been in steady decline. Murder arrest rates, for example, were 74% lower in 2000 than they were in 1993. * Between 1987 and 1994 most arrest rates increased sharply.
Aggravated assault rates doubled, as did murder rates. * Males drove the 1987-1994 spikes in the murder arrest rate, and the increases were seen in acts committed with firearms. (Juvenile Crime, 2008) A common perception in the last few years was that the rate and proportion of young juveniles (under age 13) entering the juvenile justice system had increased. This statement is not true. In 1980, there were an estimated 1,476 arrests of persons ages 10–12 for every 100,000 persons in this age group in the U.
S. population. By 2003, this arrest rate had fallen to 1,296, a decline of 12%. In 1980, 9. 5% of all juvenile arrests were arrests of persons under age 13; in 2003, this percentage had decreased to 8. 5%—with the majority of the decrease occurring during the mid-1990s. (Snyder and Sickmund, 2006). Gender-specific factors also influence juvenile arrest trends. If juvenile males and females were contributing equally to an arrest trend, then the female proportion of juvenile arrests would remain constant.
A major story in the last few years has been the rise in the proportion of females entering the juvenile justice system. “In 1980, 20% of all juvenile arrests were female arrests; in 2003, this percentage had increased to 29%—with the majority of this growth since the early 1990s. The female proportion increased between 1980 and 2003 in juvenile arrests for Violent Crime Index offenses (from 10% to 18%) and for Property Crime Index offenses (from 19% to 32%); however, the female proportion of drug abuse violations arrests was the same in 1980 and 2003 (16%).
Between 1980 and 2003, the female percentage of juvenile violent crime arrests increased, with the overall increase tied mainly to aggravated assault arrests. ” (Snyder and Sickmund, 2006). Between 1994 and 2003, female juvenile arrests either increased more or decreased less than male juvenile arrests in many offense categories (e. g. , driving under the influence, drug abuse violations, simple assault, liquor law violations, and aggravated assault). As a result, while male juvenile arrests declined 22% over the period, female juvenile arrests declined just 3%.
Between 1994 and 2003, while both juvenile and adult male arrests for simple assault changed little (1% and –5%, respectively), arrests for both juvenile and adult females increased substantially (36% and 31%, respectively). This implies that the increase in juvenile female arrests for simple assault over the period was a trend for females in general, not for juvenile females specifically. Recommendations To help improve the issues within the juvenile justice system, involvement, reform, and social change has to extend has to extend to all areas of society.
Parents must first take a proactive stance in their children’s education and rearing; schools need to provide more after-school programs and alternative learning models for troubled students; the community needs to offer more functional and supportive outreach programs to deter criminal activity; juvenile centers must keep to the purpose of rehabilitating the juveniles instead of inconspicuously preparing for the recurrence of criminal activity, and finally those involved in the courts must work on refraining from racial biases, prejudices, and extraneous sentencing on juveniles.
Conclusion The juvenile justice system is full of troubled juveniles that didn’t think they would get caught. Because of harsh and sometimes extraneous legal policies, juveniles are often treated as adults in the system and the purpose of rehabilitation seems only but a distant dream. Unfortunate racial, socioeconomic, gender, and behavioral biases that have been placed upon numerous juveniles continue to cause major discrepancies within the system.
A sad byproduct of the issues associated with entering the juvenile system is the label juveniles receive and the social stigmatism after their release. Although there has been evidence of decreases in juvenile criminal activity, the lack of efficient reporting, and continuous exposure of the juvenile justice system’s flaws is still very evident in news reports and the media. Once labeled a juvenile delinquent, these juveniles still will have a difficult time removing that label even if they turn their life around and begin to make better choices.
All the negativity associated with the juvenile justice system brings one to question whether enough is being done to prevent the issue, rehabilitate present offenders, and deter future activity. The reformation of the juvenile justice system is a task that cannot rest on the efforts of an individual, or one solitary group. It is not until it becomes a national concern that any change can take place. If the children are our future, then their freedom is our duty. References Basic Statistics. (2001). Retrieved October 11, 2010 from Frontline, Juvenile Justice: http://www. bs. org/? wgbh/? pages/? frontline/? shows/? juvenile/? stats/? basic. html. Child or Adult? A Century Long View. (2010). Retrieved from October 25, 2010 Frontline, Juvenile Justice: http://www. pbs. org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/juvenile/stats/childadult. html Is the system racially biased? (2010). Retrieved October 11, 2010 from Frontline, Juvenile Justice: http://www. pbs. org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/juvenile/bench/race. html Flatley, J, Kershaw, C, Smith, K, Chaplin, R, & Moon, D. Home Office, Home Office Statistics Unit. 2010). Crime in England and Wales 2009/2010. United Kingdom: Crown Copyright. Greenwood, P. W. , Lipson, A. J. , Abrahamse, A, & Zimring, F. State of California Assembly Rules Committee. (1983). Youth crime and juvenile justice in California: a report to the legislature (Rand-3016-CSA). California: The Rand Corporation History of America’s Juvenile Justice System. (2008). Retrieved October 11, 2010 from Einstein Law, Lawyershop. com: http://www. lawyershop. com/? practice-areas/? criminal-law/? juvenile-law/? histor