Purpose clauses, 2016

  • No clause

  • Parens patriae

  • Due process era

  • Balanced and Restorative Justice (BARJ)

  • Developmental Approach

Mississippi’s short purpose clause aligns with parens patriae language found in the Standard Juvenile Court Act (1959) and adds that the aim for each youth under the court’s jurisdiction is to become a responsible, accountable and productive citizen, which is reminiscent of BARJ.

MS ST §43-21-103

Intake and diversion, 2016

Initial intake and court diversion decision is at the discretion of the prosecutor or the juvenile court intake officer.

In Mississippi, any person can take custody of a juvenile (similar to a citizen's arrest) and contact law enforcement to handle the matter.  When the law enforcement officer (LEO) takes custody and detains a juvenile, a judge or designee must authorize temporary custody within 24 hours. Temporary custody can last 48 hours (excluding weekends and holidays) and continued custody can be ordered at a detention hearing.  With continued custody, a petition must be filed within 5 days of the detention hearing. The prosecutor (DA) and alleged offender may sign a pre-trial diversion agreement that includes conditions for the juvenile. Upon successful completion, the DA agrees not to prosecute. The agreement does not require admission of a substance offense if that is at issue.  

Otherwise, when a complaint is received by any person or agency alleging jurisdiction of the court, a court intake officer (JPO) will conduct a preliminary inquiry and make recommendations to the court to take no action, warn/council the child, adjust the matter informally, order the Department of Human Services, Division of Family and Children Services to monitor the family, refer the child to youth drug court or order a petition to be filed. Petitions can be filed by the youth court prosecutor (DA) or designee. Local court rules may vary.

“Informal adjustments” can occur before or after a petition is filed. The informal adjustment counselor appointed by the judge (JPO) works with the juvenile and parent/s during a conference to develop a voluntary plan. Conditions can include actions to correct behavior at home or school, contacts by the JPO and/or designated agency, and placement. The JPO, child, and parent sign the agreement that can go up to 6 months, and can be extended by the court for 6 more months. The matter may go before the court earlier when a child is in non-secure placement so the judge can make reasonable efforts determinations (to prevent placement, to reunify) for funding purposes. JPO can dismiss the child from court jurisdiction. Once adjudication proceedings convene, the judge may continue the matter and later release the juvenile from jurisdiction without further action.  There are also provisions for alternative dispositions.

Statutory time limits for pre- & post-petition court diversions exist.

In Mississippi, informal adjustment agreements can go up to 6 months, and can be extended by the court for 6 more months. 

Courtroom shackling, 2015

No statewide restriction

Competency, 2015

Mississippi has no competency provisions in the juvenile code of statutes or Youth Court Rule that specifically mentions juvenile competency, but some indirect protections exist (effective legal representation, judicial acceptance of youth admissions, notice when intending to enter an insanity defense, etc.) There are also (adult) penal code provisions that state “when any person charged with…delinquency and brought before [any] judge and it appears the person was insane upon commission and is still insane; or when a person with an intellectual disability to such an extent as not to be responsible for the act… must remand the prisoner to custody and report the case to chancery court (for mental illness/intellectual disability proceedings). Those before the circuit court facing felonious indictments can be ordered for evaluation of…his ability to make a defense.

  • No juvenile standard

  • Juvenile standard is the adult standard

  • Juvenile justice standard exists

  • JJ standard includes developmental immaturity

Sex offender registration, 2015


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Juvenile Justice GPS (Geography, Policy, Practice, Statistics) is a project to develop a repository providing state policy makers and system stakeholders with a clear understanding of the juvenile justice landscape in the states.

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