Chapter 2: Jurisdictional and Program Self-Assessment
Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention: Federal Programs and Strategies

The U.S. Congress passed the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (JJDP) Act in 1974. Although the JJDP Act promoted prevention and control of delinquency, subsequent amendments have increased the scope of the Act. Prior to passage of the JJDP Act, other Federal legislation regarding juvenile delinquency was enacted. However, the JJDP Act of 1974 was the first Federal law that dealt comprehensively with juvenile delinquency. It combined Federal leadership, State planning, and community-based services to foster improvements throughout the system (Raley, 1995). The Act set standards and promoted planning efforts by State and local entities to best use Federal assistance (Making a difference, 1997). The JJDP Act created the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) within the U.S. Department of Justice. OJJDP provides formula funds to States to promote national objectives and funds innovations, research, and evaluation on juvenile justice issues (Raley, 1995). Table 2:b summarizes the JJDP Act's goal and core requirements. Table 2:c provides a brief review of amendments to the JJDP Act, and Table 2:d summarizes the role and functions of OJJDP.

Table 2:b Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act of 1974
Goal: To increase the effectiveness of juvenile delinquency prevention and control.

Core Requirements:

  • Deinstitutionalization of Status Offenders—No status offender or nonoffender may be held in secure detention or confinement.

  • Separation of Juvenile and Adult Offenders—Juveniles shall not be detained in a secure institution in which they have contact with incarcerated adults, including inmate trustees. Juveniles should have no contact (sight or sound) with adult offenders in any area of the facility.

  • Jail and Lockup Removal—Juveniles subject to the original jurisdiction of the juvenile courts because of their age and offense cannot be held in jails and law enforcement lockups in which adults also may be detained or confined.

  • Disproportionate Minority Confinement—States are required to address efforts to reduce the proportion of minority youth in secure detention and corrections facilities where the proportion of minority youth in confinement exceeds the proportion of those groups represented in the general population.

Source: Meeting the mandates, 1995:25–28.

Table 2:c Modifications to the JJDP Act of 1974
1977: Congressional support or deinstitutionalization of status offenders and separation of juvenile and adult ofenders was reaffirmed. However, the dates by which States had to comply with the mandates were extended.

1980: Amendment allowed a compromise that permitted incarceration of youth who violated valid court orders. A second amendment contained a major initiative requiring removal of all juveniles from adult jails and lockups within 5 years.

1984: Title IV, the Missing Children’s Assistance Act, was added. Amendments requiring a competitive grant process also were made.

1988: The JJDP Act was extended with an amendment requiring OJJDP to submit an annual report to Congress on the number of juveniles in custody, the types of offenses they committed, their races and genders, and the number of youth who died in custody.

1992: Amendments added initiatives on juvenile gangs, youth development, mentoring, and prevention. The definition of a valid court order was revised, and States were required to ensure that youth in the juvenile justice system are treated equitably. Title V was added to provide incentive grants or local delinquency prevention programs. The President was authorized to convene a White House Conerence on Juvenile Justice. The 1992 amendments added a fourth core requirement to the Act by designating disproportionate minority confinement (DMC)as a compliance area. A State can lose 25 percent of its formula grant allocation if it does not undertake efforts to reduce DMC, where it exists.

Source: Raley, G.A., 1995:11–18.

Table 2:d Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention
The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention’s (OJJDP’s) goal is to provide national leadership in addressing the issues of preventing and controlling juvenile delinquency and improving the juvenile justice system. Its mission is to provide national leadership, coordination, and resources to prevent and respond to juvenile offending and child victimization. OJJDP accomplishes its mission by supporting States, local communities, and tribal jurisdictions in their efforts to develop and implement effective, multidisciplinary prevention and intervention programs and improve the capacity of the juvenile justice system to protect public safety, hold offenders accountable, and provide treatment and rehabilitative services tailored to the needs of individual juveniles and their families.


Research and Program Development Division develops knowledge on national trends in juvenile delinquency; supports a program or data collection and information sharing that incorporates elements of statistical and systems development; identifies the pathways to delinquency and the best methods to prevent, intervene in, and treat it; and analyzes practices and trends in the juvenile justice system.

Training and Technical Assistance Division provides juvenile justice training and technical assistance to Federal, State, and local governments; law enforcement, judiciary, and corrections personnel; and private agencies, educational institutions, and community organizations.

Special Emphasis Division provides discretionary funds to public and private agencies, organizations, and individuals to develop and support programs and replicate tested approaches to delinquency prevention, treatment, and control in such pertinent areas as mentoring, gangs, chronic juvenile offending, and community-based sanctions.

State and Tribal Assistance Division provides funds or State, local, and tribal governments to help them achieve the system improvement goals of the JJDP Act, address underage drinking, conduct State challenge activities, implement prevention programs, and support initiatives to hold juvenile offenders accountable. This Division also provides training and technical assistance, including support to jurisdictions that are implementing OJJDP’s Comprehensive Strategy for Serious, Violent, and Chronic Juvenile Offenders.

Information Dissemination and Planning Unit produces and distributes information resources on juvenile justice research, statistics, and programs and coordinates the Office’s program planning and competitive award activities. Information that meets the needs of juvenile justice professionals and policymakers is provided through print and online publications, videotapes, CD–ROM’s, electronic listservs, and the Office’s Web site. As part of the program planning and award process, IDPU identifies program priorities, publishes solicitations and application kits, and facilitates peer reviews or discretionary funding awards.

Concentration of Federal Efforts Program promotes interagency cooperation and coordination among Federal agencies with responsibilities in the area of juvenile justice. The Program primarily carries out this responsibility through the Coordinating Council on Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, an independent body within the executive branch that was established by Congress through the JJDP Act.

Child Protection Division administers programs related to crimes against children and children’s exposure to violence. The Division provides leadership and funding to promote effective policies and procedures to address the problems of missing and exploited children, abused or neglected children, and children exposed to domestic or community violence. CPD program activities include supporting research; providing information, training, and technical assistance on programs to prevent and respond to child victims, witnesses, and their families; developing and demonstrating effective child protection initiatives; and supporting the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Perspectives on Juvenile Justice

The way problems are conceptualized often determines the responses to them. The juvenile justice system continues to evolve and undergo shifts in ideologies and practices. In the 1960's, public policy began to move toward the decriminalization of status offenses by juveniles and the diversion of youth from formal court processing when possible. There also was a push to deinstitutionalize juvenile offenders. By the 1980's, the pendulum had swung again, and many were calling for a "get tough" approach to juvenile crime.

There often are wide disparities in opinions and theories about juvenile delinquency and how it should be treated. However, in its role as the national leader in the area of juvenile justice, OJJDP has had the opportunity, through its congressional requirements, to support research, identify policies and programs that work successfully, and conceptualize the overall mission and purpose of juvenile justice. Recently, OJJDP stated that it "supports a balanced approach to aggressively addressing juvenile delinquency and violence through establishing graduated sanctions, improving the juvenile justice system's ability to respond swiftly and effectively, and preventing the onset of delinquency. It also recognizes the need to ensure public safety and support children's development into healthy, productive citizens through a range of prevention, early intervention, and graduated sanctions programs" (Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, 1997a:1).

Balanced and Restorative Justice has been articulated and embraced by some as the encompassing mission for the juvenile justice system. Restorative justice emphasizes the value of involving victims of crime, offenders, and the community in efforts to repair the harm caused by the crime and hold youth "accountable for making amends for the damage and suffering caused" (Bazemore and Day, 1996:6). The balanced approach puts forth a mission for juvenile justice with three equally important goals (Bazemore and Day, 1996):

  • Accountability. An offender incurs an obligation to the victim and must make amends and restore losses, to the extent possible, that occurred as a result of the delinquent behavior. This is not the same as punishment and does not coincide with obeying juvenile justice authorities and complying with court orders.

  • Competency. Youth should become more able as a result of their contact with the juvenile justice system. "[C]ompetency is defined as the capacity to do something well that others value" (p. 7). It includes cognitive skills, social skills, and other abilities needed for successful lifestyles.

  • Public Safety. This involves the protection of citizens from crime, but it cannot be accomplished merely by placing youth in secure custody. Both institutional and community corrections must work toward solving problems and helping youth engage in more productive activities to develop prosocial values.

OJJDP's Comprehensive Strategy for Serious, Violent, and Chronic Juvenile Offenders

Various research studies have concluded that only a small group of juvenile offenders is responsible for serious and violent delinquency. Thus, efforts have focused on two areas: preventing at-risk youth from progressing to more serious delinquency and providing appropriate interventions for the youth who are serious, violent, and chronic offenders. OJJDP's Comprehensive Strategy for Serious, Violent, and Chronic Juvenile Offenders is based on six general principles (Wilson and Howell, 1993):

  • Strengthen families so that they may provide the guidance and nurturing that children need.

  • Support core social institutions (e.g., schools, religious institutions, and community organizations) so that they can provide opportunities and support for children in the community.

  • Promote delinquency prevention by helping communities build prevention programs that address known risk factors and target youth at risk of delinquency.

  • Intervene immediately and effectively when delinquent behavior occurs to prevent youth from progressing to more serious or chronic delinquency.

  • Establish a system of graduated sanctions that holds each juvenile offender accountable, protects public safety, and provides programs and services that meet identified treatment needs.

  • Identify and control the small group of serious, violent, and chronic juvenile offenders who threaten community safety through the use of secure facilities, when necessary, or the waiver of the most violent youth to criminal court.

The Comprehensive Strategy is based on efforts to reduce risk factors and enhance protective factors for at-risk juveniles. It also proposes a system of graduated sanctions including a range of immediate, intermediate, and secure corrections options to provide the treatment and services each juvenile needs. OJJDP's Guide for Implementing the Comprehensive Strategy for Serious, Violent, and Chronic Juvenile Offenders (Howell, 1995) thoroughly articulates strategies and programs for implementing this approach. It provides a framework for State and local jurisdictions to develop a continuum of services to meet the needs of at-risk youth, juvenile offenders, and communities.

State and Local Jurisdictions

While Congress and OJJDP provide national leadership in the area of juvenile justice, programs are administered at State and local jurisdictional levels. State laws, court practices, and delinquency programs vary considerably from one jurisdiction to another. Across the Nation, increasing concern has been expressed about juvenile delinquency, and especially youth violence, although many indicators show that juvenile crime has leveled off or declined recently (Jones and Krisberg, 1994; Snyder, 1998). State and local jurisdictions have been active in recent years is passing legislation and enacting ordinances to try to manage juvenile delinquency. Several initiatives have been taken by various jurisdictions, including many in the following areas profiled by the National Criminal Justice Association (1997):

  • Prevention.
  • Curfews.
  • Parental responsibility laws.
  • Street gangs.
  • Graduated sanctions.
  • Juvenile boot camps.
  • Juveniles and firearms.
  • Juvenile proceedings and records.
  • Juvenile transfers to criminal courts.
  • Sentencing authority.

Efforts to adapt State and local juvenile justice laws and programs are likely to continue as State and local jurisdictions grapple with these many issues and as public opinion and policies continue to be molded regarding the most effective approaches to preventing juvenile crime and intervening with delinquent youth.

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Jurisdictional Technical Assistance Package for Juvenile Corrections Report - December 2000