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Juvenile Court Statistics 2017
By Sarah Hockenberry & Charles Puzzanchera, National Center for Juvenile Justice
Published: 08/19/2019

Juvenile justice courthouse Juvenile Court Statistics 2017 describes delinquency cases and petitioned status offense cases handled between 2005 and 2017 by U.S. courts with juvenile jurisdiction. National estimates of juvenile court delinquency caseloads in 2017 were based on analyses of 577,407 automated case records and court-level statistics summarizing an additional 61,655 cases. Estimates of status offense cases formally processed by juvenile courts in 2017 were based on analyses of 58,768 automated caselevel records and court-level summary statistics on an additional 5,122 cases. The data used in the analyses were contributed to the National Juvenile Court Data Archive (the Archive) by more than 2,500 courts with jurisdiction over 87% of the juvenile population in 2017.

The first Juvenile Court Statistics report was published in 1929 by the U.S. Department of Labor and described cases handled by 42 courts during 1927. During the next decade, Juvenile Court Statistics reports were based on statistics cards completed for each delinquency, status offense, and dependency case handled by the courts participating in the reporting series. The Children's Bureau (within the U.S. Department of Labor) tabulated the information on each card, including age, gender, and race of the juvenile; the reason for referral; the manner of dealing with the case; and the final disposition of the case. During the 1940s, however, the collection of caselevel data was abandoned because of its high cost. From the 1940s until the mid-1970s, Juvenile Court Statistics reports were based on simple, annual case counts reported to the Children's Bureau by participating courts.

In 1957, the Children's Bureau initiated a new data collection design that enabled the Juvenile Court Statistics series to develop statistically sound national estimates. The Children's Bureau, which had been transferred to the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW), developed a probability sample of more than 500 courts. Each court in the sample was asked to submit annual counts of delinquency, status offense, and dependency cases. This approach, though, proved difficult to sustain as courts began to drop out of the sample. At the same time, a growing number of courts outside the sample began to compile comparable statistics. By the late 1960s, HEW ended the sample-based effort and returned to the policy of collecting annual case counts from any court able to provide them. The Juvenile Court Statistics series, however, continued to generate national estimates based on data from these nonprobability samples.

The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) became responsible for Juvenile Court Statistics following the passage of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act of 1974. In 1975, OJJDP awarded the National Center for Juvenile Justice (NCJJ) a grant to continue the report series. Although NCJJ agreed to use procedures established by HEW to ensure reporting continuity, NCJJ also began to investigate methods of improving the quality and detail of national statistics. A critical innovation was made possible by the proliferation of computers during the 1970s. As NCJJ asked agencies across the country to complete the annual juvenile court statistics form, some agencies began offering to send the detailed, automated case-level data collected by their management information systems. NCJJ learned to combine these automated records to produce a detailed national portrait of juvenile court activity—returning to the original objective of the Juvenile Court Statistics series.

The project’s transition from using annual case counts to analyzing automated case-level data was completed with the production of Juvenile Court Statistics 1984. For the first time since the 1930s, Juvenile Court Statistics contained detailed case-level descriptions of the delinquency and status offense cases handled by U.S. juvenile courts. This case-level detail continues to be the emphasis of the reporting series.

In 2019, to ensure efficiency and coordination of all Office of Justice Programs (OJP) research activities, the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) assumed management of the juvenile justice research, evaluation, and statistical data collection projects funded by OJJDP, including the National Juvenile Court Data Archive.

To view the full report click here.


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