States vary in how each sets the basic playing field for juvenile justice with lower and upper age boundaries. State legislatures further create a range of complex exceptions for transfer to criminal court based on case-by-case, age and offense specifics.
State juvenile justice profiles highlight the topical content of the JJGPS across its six main menu content areas and dozens of underlying juvenile justice reform topics. Each profile begins with the most recent state trend data on juvenile arrests and custody issues from national data collections followed by a checklist of highlights for comparing and contrasting juvenile justice policy.
Youth of color are overrepresented in many aspects of the juvenile justice system from arrest to court referral and confinement. A core requirement of federal juvenile justice policy (Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act of 2002) requires each state to identify where disparities may exist across various juvenile justice decision points. Where disparities are identified, the states must complete self-assessments informed by comprehensive data and use this research to develop solutions. The monitoring task begins with understanding federal policy for identifying racial and ethnic groups and exploring what national juvenile arrest data can tell us. Of equal importance is charting state progress toward transparently reporting meaningful fairness indicators to the public, conducting more detailed self-assessments and advancing specific strategies to improve racial and ethnic fairness at the local-level.
The White House establishes policy on minimum race and ethnicity categories with a framework that is disseminated in an Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Circular. All federal agencies, including the U.S. Census Bureau for the decennial Census must follow the OMB requirements for collecting information on the most basic race and ethnic combinations. These categories influence everything from civil rights monitoring, to education and health planning and fairness in the juvenile justice system and the categories change over time and are likely to be revised once again in advance of the 2020 Census.
The current policy for minimum reporting establishes 5 minimum race categories and 2 ethnicity options of Hispanic or Latino or not Hispanic or Latino. Thus a key principle for juvenile justice data collection is to collect race and ethnicity data as separate data items or variables.
The U.S. population will grow and become more diverse through mid-century. The juvenile population will continue to grow and become more diverse. The white proportion of the juvenile population ages 10 to 17 is projected to decrease from 53% in 2015 to 37% in 2060, with Hispanic and Latino youth and multi-race youth experiencing the greatest increases.
Tribal sovereignty in the U.S. means tribal courts have jurisdiction over American Indian or Alaska Native (AI/AN) youth accused of committing delinquent acts in "Indian country." Some tribes will assert that jurisdiction and some will not, depending if they have juvenile codes. Tribal court jurisdiction is sometimes limited by federal law depending on whether both offender and victim are AI/AN and the severity of the alleged offense. Certain matters will be assigned to federal or state courts, even if a tribe retains concurrent jurisdiction over the case.
Congress initially assumed federal jurisdiction over civil causes and Indian crimes occurring on tribal land within U.S. borders. It later passed a controversial Public Law in 1953 (P.L. 83-280) to reassign tribal and federal authority to tribal and state jurisdiction over Indian crimes and civil causes. Some "P.L. 280" states were required to assume that role ("mandatory") and other states were permitted to do so ("optional") on a full or partial basis. For the sake of simplification, this map assumes the offender and victim are both AI/AN.
In mandatory states, tribes and states share concurrent jurisdiction under P.L. 280. State jurisdiction is concurrent in “other” states due to optional P.L. 280 agreements, land settlement acts, or other laws Federal jurisdiction remains concurrent with tribes in "non-P.L. 280" states. Major crimes are subject to federal jurisdiction in all states. When there is no Indian land of a federally recognized tribe within a state’s border, this hierarchy does not apply. In practice, jurisdiction is much more complex.
The state is required by federal law (P.L.280) to accept concurrent (alternate) jurisdiction with tribes over civil causes and Indian crimes occurring in Indian country, though exceptions exist.
The state has opted for concurrent jurisdiction with tribes over civil causes and Indian Crimes occurring in Indian country per P.L. 280 as an “Optional” state, land settlement acts or other laws. Specified major crimes are subject to federal prosecution.
The federal government retains jurisdiction with tribes over civil causes and Indian crimes occurring in Indian country.
There is no Indian land of a federally-recognized tribe within the state’s borders. Usual state and federal jurisdiction over law violating conduct of minors applies.
The map does not reflect exceptions for particular tribes, retrocessions from state back to federal jurisdiction, case law, local protocols, definition or procedural overlaps, intersections with other statutes that may apply or when tribes routinely defer jurisdiction to state or federal authorities.
Since 1988, the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (JJDP) Act has required ongoing state monitoring of disparities that may indicate biased decision-making in juvenile justice. Measurement activities initially focused on youth in secure confinement, but later recognized that disparities may also be the result of earlier steps in the juvenile justice system involving the decisions of law enforcement, prosecutors and juvenile court judges to divert youth from advancing deeper into the juvenile justice system. During this period two approaches to measuring vital signs in this area emerged.
The current JJDP Act requires the relative rate index (RRI) to measure disparities in the juvenile justice system. It addresses the contributions between 9 key decision points spanning arrest, court and custody events and transfer to criminal court. However, it also involves gathering data from multiple agencies' administrative systems. These systems vary in their capacity across and within states and may not contain the geographic detail necessary to identify jurisdictions with symptoms of a problem requiring deeper exploration and detail.
An earlier method that still has some merit for state or county reporting is called the disproportionate representation index (DRI). DRI's are easier to develop and explain but mask the contribution of each decision to the cumulative problem of overrepresentation of youth in secure settings which the RRI indicator was developed to address.
Using national data collections to develop indicators
There is no national data collection specifically designed to monitor vital signs on racial and ethnic fairness at the state-level. However, existing collections can be applied in a interim way to advance discussions. The preferred RRI indicator is easily available for a national snapshot on the issue but lacks the ability to drill into the state or local details necessary for focusing reform advocacy. Simple rates are common per-capita metrics available at the state-level, but with many limitations. Inconsistent ethnicity reporting presents a challenge regardless of approach, leading to a possible over count of white youth in the juvenile justice system which distort White-to-Hispanic/Latino ratios but also impact RRI metrics for other groups.
There are different ways for racial and ethnic fairness indicator data to be reported by states. However, twenty-five years into a reporting requirement, indicators are difficult for the average person to obtain. Most states report directly to OJJDP, but a handful of progressive states advance the federal requirement to report RRIs by annually releasing them in public facing websites that address the aims of transparency and continuous monitoring for improvements or slip. A few take an additional step of publishing RRIs on interactive websites which encourage exploration. Other states publish indicators and sometimes much more with point-in-time assessment research that is also required by OJJDP. Some states do both.
An additional federal requirement is a staff person designated to advance racial and ethnic fairness reporting and improvement plans called Disproportionate Minority Contact (DMC) Coordinators. Sometimes the positions are full-time posts but can also be part-time positions. In recent years fewer states have dedicated a full-time state position for advancing racial and ethnic fairness in juvenile justice.
While the JJDP Act has required states to monitor disparities in the juvenile justice system, few states actually publish their results publicly. Most states report to the federal juvenile justice agency only. A few states have taken a progressive approach by creating interactive online dashboards, in addition to published reports, which allow users to explore DMC indicators across juvenile justice decision points.
Click a state to see a summary of its policies and more information.
The Colorado Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice (State Advisory Group) supports an online data analysis tool for exploring Disproportionate Minority Contact (DMC) data across a nuanced range of decision points that is Colorado-specific. Selections include juvenile population by race/ethnicity compared to juvenile population at various points in the juvenile justice system and comparisons by geography.
The Michigan Committee on Juvenile Justice (State Advisory Group) supports an Interactive Data feature on its website for exploring Disproportionate Minority Contact (DMC) Relative Rate Index (RRI) measures across the nine federally required decision points and for individual race and ethnicity categories. Policy Policy Associates developed the application with the ability to select other indicators such as counts, rates, county rate comparisons, gender and age. Some counties do not provide DMC-RRI data, or provide partial data, and are noted in the online tool. The Michigan Committee on Juvenile Justice also supports a web page for downloading underlying DMC data in an Excel format.
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.