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 agencies are state agencies of equal stature to a state’s adult department of corrections.
    • Family/child welfare agency or divisions are 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 social or human services agencies refers to the general public welfare agency.
    • Adult corrections agency or division refers to state agencies that administer corrections for adults and have an internal division for juvenile corrections.
    • Independent juvenile corrections agencies are state agencies of equal stature to a state’s adult department of corrections.

    • Family/child welfare agency or divisions are 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 social or human services agencies refers to the general public welfare agency.

    • Adult corrections agency or division refers to state agencies that administer corrections for adults and have an internal division for juvenile corrections.

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      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.

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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:

      • Agencies to which the juvenile has been committed decide when to release youth from state institutions.
      • Courts have sole authority to decide when youth are to be released from state institutions. 
      • Parole boards decide 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 courts share the authority to release committed youth. 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.
      • Agencies to which the juvenile has been committed decide when to release youth from state institutions.

      • Courts have sole authority to decide when youth are to be released from state institutions. 

      • Parole boards decide 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 courts share the authority to release committed youth. 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

        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

        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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        Risk assessment in juvenile probation

        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 34 states adopting a single risk assessment tool at the state-level. 

        State policy: 16 states have statutes supporting risk assessment in juvenile probation and 33 states have state regulation on this topic. In addition, 3 states have a state agency recommendation to adopt risk assessment in juvenile probation.

        Training: 28 states have training to advance risk assessment practices.  

        Local innovation: Finally, 14 states have adopted local policies to govern the use of risk assessments 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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        Frameworks:

        In some cases, EBPs are required by state statues and/or state agency policies. Some states have created resource centers to provide guidance on the topic as well. Eight states have no official stance on EBPs in juvenile justice.

        • Has framework for advancing EBPs
        • Does not have framework
        Risk assessment:

        Many states require the use of a risk assessment tool through state statute or probation agency policy and provide training on their use, while other states simply recommend the practice. Local policies also support the practice in many states.

        • Used
        • Not used
        Mental health screening:

        States requiring mental health screenings in juvenile detention, probation, and/or correctional settings.

        • Used
        • Not used

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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

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        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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