The juvenile justice system exists to protect the child, not to enforce public safety. That statement alone is enough to cause consternation and confusion. There are endless stories of people under the age of 18 terrorizing communities; so to state that the justice system exists to protect the child is a shocking revelation to many angry adults attending anti-crime meetings.
But it’s true, the system serves the best interest of the child unless he or she is deemed a risk to public safety and transferred to the adult system. So how many are transferred? Not many.
According to a new US Department of Justice document (http://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/ojjdp/230168.pdf) reviewing the number and characteristics of juvenile cases during different time periods, we find the following:
The number of delinquency cases handled in U.S. juvenile courts remained virtually unchanged from 2000 through 2007. An estimated 1.7 million delinquency cases were handled in juvenile courts nationwide in 2007.
Although their numbers have increased, females remain a relatively small proportion of the delinquency caseload nationwide. Juvenile courts handled 448,900 cases involving females in 2007, more than twice the 1985 number. In comparison, the number of cases involving males in 2007 (1,217,100) was just 30% more than the 1985 number. As a result of these trends, the female proportion of the delinquency caseload has risen steadily, from 19% in 1985 to 27% in 2007.
During a ten-year period (1989-2007) delinquency cases dropped seven percent but some crime categories (homicides, rapes, aggravated assault, burglary, motor vehicle theft) were reduced by as much as 39 percent. But what increased during this time period was:
- Other sex offenses (20 percent increase)
- Disorderly conduct (39 percent increase)
- Liquor law violations (76 percent increase)
White youth accounted for 78 percent of the US juvenile population.
Out of all juveniles coming into contact with the justice system:
- 28 percent of violent defendants were detained in a facility (before a hearing)
- 56 percent of juvenile cases went through the formal juvenile justice system (the rest were handeled informally or dropped)
- 63 percent of juvenile cases were adjudicated delinquent (the closest thing to a finding of guilt in the juvenile justice system)
- 25 percent of the adjudicated delinquent cases were sent to residential placement (anywhere from a secured facility [they don’t call them prisons] to group homes)
- 0.5 percent of all juvenile cases sere sent to adult courts for trial (where the emphasis is what’s good for the community-not what’s good for the child)
Crime in America.Net