How are the states organized to advance more active and results-oriented juvenile justice solutions? Every state has a set of laws establishing a system of juvenile courts and a corresponding intervention system commonly referred to as juvenile justice services. Advancements in the science of adolescent development and accompanying intervention strategies are gradually changing juvenile justice services in states, which are increasingly adopting evidence-based approaches to screening and assessment and reporting their performance. 

Basic services

Juvenile justice services share a common set of core intervention activities to support public safety and youth treatment goals. However, each state operates services to delinquent youth at different levels, with different delivery systems that are state operated, mostly state operated or locally administered.

Some states operate juvenile justice services from the state level (11) with all but one of those states (Utah) actually centralizing authority in a single state agency.  Other states organize services mostly from the state level (22) and some can be characterized as organizing most or all core delinquency services locally (18).

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    Corrections agency

    Some variation and fluidity exists among states for the type of agency charged with juvenile corrections.

    Between 1993 and 2005, eight states separated juvenile corrections responsibility into an independent agency dedicated to juvenile corrections (Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, North Carolina, Oklahoma and Oregon). In contrast, between 2005 and 2015, two states merged independent juvenile corrections agencies within a broader adult corrections department (Kansas and North Carolina).

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    Various state executive branch agencies administer commitments to state juvenile correctional facilities.  These agencies are responsible for maintaining operations and managing administrative functions, including finance and human resources or managing contracts to private provider networks. A four-category typology was created by NCJJ during the early 1990s to chart change.

    Independent juvenile corrections agency:

    State agencies of equal stature to a state’s adult department of corrections.

    Family/child welfare agency or division:

    Agencies within a broader social or human services agency or independent children and youth serving agencies that manage both child protection and juvenile corrections.

    Broad human services agency:

    The general public welfare agency.

    Adult corrections agency or division:

    Adult corrections agency, often with an internal division for juvenile corrections.

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      Solitary confinement

      Solitary confinement in youth facilities is currently being reconsidered in many state and local jurisdictions across the country, based on research and reflections that illustrate its negative effects.  The Stop Solitary for Kids campaign defines solitary confinement as the involuntary placement of a youth alone in a cell or room for any reason other than as a temporary response to behavior that threatens immediate harm to the youth or others. Whether it’s called “seclusion,” “isolation,” “segregation,” or “room confinement,” the result is often the same—long periods of time, sometimes weeks or months, in isolation with little access to education, mental health services, drug treatment, or basic human interactions. According to Stop Solitary for Kids, the practice can have long term consequences including trauma, psychosis, depression, anxiety, and increased risk of suicide and self-harm.

      In 2016, the use of solitary confinement was banned for youth in the federal prison system and the federal Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention supported efforts to end solitary confinement.  The National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges and other professional organizations also took positions against solitary confinement for youth.  Many state and local jurisdictions followed suit by reducing or eliminating the use of punitive solitary confinement in juvenile facilities.

      A 2016 legislative review and survey of juvenile correctional facilities conducted by the Lowenstein Center for the Public Interest at Lowenstein Sandler indicated that 29 states prohibit the use of solitary confinement for punitive purposes in state operated juvenile correctional facilities, where youth are serving long term custodial sentences. 

      Prohibits punitive confinement:

      Jurisdictions prohibiting the use of punitive solitary confinement by law or practice in juvenile correctional facilities. Includes states that allow punitive confinement for a maximum of 4 hours per day.

      Limits punitive confinement:

      Jurisdictions limiting the amount of time a juvenile may spend in punitive solitary confinement in juvenile correctional facilities.

      No limits on punitive confinement:

      Jurisdictions placing no limit or allowing indefinite extension of the amount of time a juvenile may spend in punitive solitary confinement in juvenile correctional facilities.

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        State

        Adapted from 51 Jurisdiction Survey of Juvenile Solitary Confinement Rules in Juvenile Justice Systems, 2016. Lowenstein Center for the Public Interest at Lowenstein Sandler LLP.  Updates are made as new information becomes available.  In 2017, Wyoming and Georgia provided updates to the survey.

        Release decision

        Every year, thousands of youth are released from state juvenile correctional facilities and considerable variation exists among states on how this decision is made and by whom. The power to decide when a committed juvenile is to be released from a state correctional facility is often entrusted to the agency or institution to which the juvenile has been committed, the juvenile court having jurisdiction over the case, a separately constituted paroling authority, or sometimes to some combination of these. This analysis focuses on a physical release from an institution which may be separate from the decision to discharge a youth from agency supervision/custody.

        Recent changes

        • On 7/25/16, Illinois' Public Act 99-0628 granted the release decision to the Department of Juvenile Justice (rather than the Prisoner Review Board) with some exceptions, effective 1/1/17.

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        • JJIE Reentry Reform Hub: This online resource is curated by the National Juvenile Justice Network and provides an overview of key issues and reform trends relating to reentry and aftercare. Within the key issues and reform trends sections, you will find helpful links as well as the most recent research, cutting-edge reforms, model policies, links to experts, and toolkits to take action.
        • Youth Reentry Improvement Report (2011): This Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission policy report offers reform recommendations in the context of a state with a juvenile parole board and adult-style parole supervision model.

        The decision-making processes that result in the release of a youth from state correction institutions are complex and vary widely across the country. An analysis of these decisions resulted in the creation of 4 categories:

        Agency:

        Decides when to release youth from state institutions.

        Court:

        Has sole authority to decide when youth are to be released from state institutions. 

        Parole board:

        Decides when youth are to be released from state institutions. This power may be shared with the court or agency as it is in New Jersey, New York, and South Carolina.

        Agency and court:

        Discretion is shared. Sometimes, the release power is split between decision makers due to specific offense criteria or in other cases, the agency makes the decision subject to court approval.

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          State

          Risk assessment

          Risk/need assessment tools have become common practice in juvenile probation settings across the country. Risk/need assessment tools gauge the likelihood that an individual will reoffend and guide case planning by identifying and prioritizing criminogenic needs. These tools are the foundation of evidence based practices, enhancing efforts to treat offenders, reduce recidivism, and increase public safety.  NCJJ first surveyed state-level probation contacts in all 50 states and the District of Columbia in 2013 regarding the use of risk/need assessment tools in juvenile probation statewide, however NCJJ did not independently verify whether all jurisdictions within a state were actually using the identified tool. This 2017 update suggests states continue to adopt consistent approaches to assessment by adopting a single risk/need assessment tool statewide.  

          Since 2013, five additional states (Arkansas, Hawaii, Kansas, Mississippi and West Virginia) implemented a single risk assessment tool statewide in juvenile probation achieving Statewide Uniform Assessment. Two states (Kentucky and Rhode Island) changed the assessment tool in use, while retaining their statewide implementation. Kentucky switched from the YLS/CMI to the Risk and Criminogenic Needs Assessment (RCNA) while Rhode Island chose the SAVRY after years of using the Probation Risk Needs Assessment.

          Statewide uniform assessment:

          States adopt a single risk assessment tool statewide that is required or encouraged by the state.

          Layered/regional assessment:

          States do not achieve statewide implementation with a single tool due to layered probation (state and local) or due to regional differences.

          Locally administered assessment:

          States lack requirement to implement risk assessment tool allowing local policy to govern the use of risk need assessment tools.

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            State

            Evidence-based practices

            Juvenile justice services are increasingly required to implement practices and program interventions supported by the current body of juvenile justice evaluation research and demonstrate outcomes that reduce the likelihood of re-offense.


            Risk instruments

            More states are using research-informed techniques for assessing risk factors (criminogenic needs) of youth who come into contact with the juvenile justice system. These techniques are increasingly guiding intervention planning for juvenile probation, with 38 states adopting a single risk assessment tool at the state-level. There are various instruments in use across the country as indicated in the Risk Instruments table on the right. 

            State support: 42 states support risk assessment through either state statute or probation agency policy. In addition, 4 states have a state agency recommendation to adopt risk assessment in juvenile probation.

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            Standardized mental health screening

            Mental health screening involves applying a validated screening tool, by non-clinical staff, universally to an entire population.  States are increasingly using this approach in a variety of juvenile services settings from detention admission through probation and juvenile corrections.

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            State support for evidence-based policies, programs and practices

            The states vary in the infrastructure support they provide to advance this cause across diverse geographies.

            State policy: 18 states currently have statutes that support a commitment to evidence-based programs and practices specifically in juvenile justice and another 28 states have agency administrative regulations that require evidence-based practices in some way.

            Support centers: 13 states have established a support center or collaborative dedicated to coordinating activities around implementing, evaluating and sustaining evidence-based programming and practices in juvenile justice.  Support centers have a name, internet presence, provide training and technical assistance and provide performance indicator reports online.

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            Recidivism reporting

            Juvenile justice services, programs, and interventions are often deemed successful or not based upon a common outcome measure of subsequent criminal behavior commonly referred to as recidivism. Recidivism is defined and measured in many different ways based upon how the measure will be used and what data is available. The most useful recidivism analyses include the widest possible range of events that correspond with actual reoffending and include sufficient detail to differentiate offenders by offense severity in addition to other characteristics (Sickmund and Puzzanchera,2014).

            NCJJ reviewed publicly available juvenile justice recidivism reports was conducted to discover which states currently publish recidivism data and do so repeatedly over time. States that only offer point-in-time studies are not included here.

            Some states simply provide a recidivism rate, while others provide much more detail to help define recidivism. Recidivism reports are published by different authors, including correction agencies and courts, leading to multiple reports for some states. In this analysis, these reports are combined into a single entry.

            Once located, reports were reviewed to identify key elements that help define recidivism in each state.  These include which youth are tracked (study population), measures of recidivism (marker event), and how long youth are tracked (follow up period). To summarize the results, the study populations and marker events were synthesized into four categories: Arrest, Court Action, Supervision, and Placement. Some reports include details that provide for a more in-depth analysis, such as age, race, gender, risk level, and prior juvenile justice history.

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            National assistance

            The National Center for Juvenile Justice (NCJJ) has a history of helping jurisdictions collect, analyze, and apply data to make juvenile justice decisions. NCJJJ is currently partnering with The Pew Charitable Trust's Public Safety Performance Project (PSPP) and the Council of Juvenile Correctional Administrators on a comprehensive study of juvenile recidivism in five states. NCJJ can assist your jurisdiction to determine how to develop and apply measures of subsequent offending.

            National Juvenile Justice Network

            The Juvenile Justice Resource Hub is curated by the National Juvenile Justice Network (NJJN) and hosted by the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange. The Hub is a one-stop resource center for systems reform advocacy. It includes an evidence-based practice area that is designed to support youth advocates with a comprehensive literature review, summaries of key issues and terms and connections to experts.

            Study populations:

            The group(s) of youth being studied in states that publicly report recidivism data.

            • Reported
            • Not reported
            Re-offense event:

            Events that are used to measure recidivism in states that publicly report recidivism data.

            • Studied
            • Not studied
            Follow-up periods:

            Details regarding the length of time and frequency that youth are tracked in states that publicly report recidivism data.

            • Reported
            • Not reported
            Details:

            Additional levels of analysis provided in states that publicly report recidivism data.

            • In reports
            • Not in reports
            • *Provides data in multiple reports

            Download this data

            Progressive recidivism data

            As illustrated in table above, state level recidivism reports vary widely in the populations, marker events, and other details included in their analyses. Given the complexities involved in measuring recidivism, most published reports include only one population and one marker event as additional details often require additional data sources and other resources. However, there are a few examples of progressive recidivism research which include multiple populations and marker events and/or include more comprehensive analyses.

            Click a state to see a summary of its policies and more information.

            About this project

            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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