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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 77530 Find in a Library
Title: Juvenile Status Offenders - What Factors Influence Their Treatment?
Journal: State Court Journal  Volume:5  Issue:2  Dated:(Spring 1981)  Pages:26-35,44
Author(s): M R Lewis; H Hess
Date Published: 1981
Page Count: 10
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This article reports the results of a study that identified key factors associated with judicial decisionmaking in juvenile status offender cases during the process of Alabama's implementation of a law requiring treatment of status offenders to be different from treatment of delinquent youths.
Abstract: The provisions of Alabama's new law which are relevant to the study include the following: increasing the upper age definition of a child from 16 to 18 years, prohibiting the use of secure detention for status offenders, requiring a hearing within 72 hours of apprehension, permitting use of a consent decree, and permitting the court more alternatives in case disposition. Two Alabama counties, one urban and one rural, were selected for the study. A total of 60 youths who were referred to the court for running away were followed through case completion. Findings suggest that in Alabama almost no status offenders are being incarcerated in State institutions. Instead, they are being served in open, community-based facilities. Court dispositions of youths were most heavily influenced by the youths' county of residence; urban youths became more deeply involved in the juvenile justice system than did rural youths. In addition, major differences were noted in the philosophy of the judges; in the structure of community services; and in the interactive patterns among courts, services, families, and youths. It appears that services needed for status offenders could be provided just as well outside the court, so long as personnel in the serving agencies understand the extent and nature of court authority and how to use it. Close and continuous collaboration between court and other agency personnel is essential. In most instances, parents of runaway youths were requesting help prior to court referral. In addition, youths' difficulties that resulted in court referrals were shared with their families. The study supports the assertion that judicial decisionmaking about juvenile status offenders is affected by a variety of factors, including certain characteristics of the youths, such as race and sex, coupled with specific behaviors of running away and being sexually active. Findings support recommendations to reconceptualize the jurisdiction of the court in terms of families with service needs rather than children in need of supervision or to have an option for either approach. Several tables and 16 notes are provided.
Index Term(s): Alabama; Dispositions; Hearings; Judicial discretion; Juvenile court diversion; Juvenile processing; Juvenile status offenders; State laws; Treatment
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