Criminal Justice Research & Reports

Pioneers of Youth Justice Reform: Achieving System Change Using Resolution, Reinvestment, and Realignment Strategies
JULY 2012 • Research and Evaluation Center at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York; Written by: Douglas N. Evans
Full Report (67 pages); Synopsis of report

Summary: In the past three decades, state and local governments implemented a variety of reform strategies to reduce the youth justice system’s reliance on confinement facilities and to serve as many youth as possible in their own homes or at least in their own communities when removal from the home is warranted. The various reform strategies may be conceptualized as relying on three distinct but interrelated mechanisms: resolution, reinvestment, and realignment (Butts and Evans 2011). Resolution refers to the use of managerial authority and administrative directives to influence system change; reinvestment entails the use of financial incentives to encourage system change; and realignment employs organizational and structural modifications to create new systems. This report describes the history and implementation of the most well-known reform initiatives that draw upon one or more of these mechanisms to achieve system change and it considers their impact on juvenile confinement at the state and local level.

Trends in Juvenile Justice State Legislation: 2001-2011
JUNE 2012
 • National Conference of State Legislatures; Written by: Sarah Alice Brown
Full Report (16 pages)

Executive Summary
Two main goals drive the nation’s juvenile justice system: protecting both public safety and the welfare and rehabilitation of young offenders who break the law. State juvenile justice policies require balancing these interests, while also preserving the rights of juveniles.

A rise in serious juvenile crime in the late 1980s and early 1990s led to state laws that moved away from the traditional emphasis on rehabilitation in the juvenile justice system toward tougher, more punitive treatment of youth, including adult handling.

During the past decade, juvenile crime rates have declined, and state legislatures are reexamining juvenile justice policies and rebalancing approaches to juvenile crime and delinquency.

Today, more and better information is available to policymakers on the causes of juvenile crime and what can be done to prevent it. This includes important information about neurobiological and psychosocial factors and the effect on development and competency of adolescents. The research has contributed to recent legislative trends to distinguish juvenile from adult offenders, restore the jurisdiction of the juvenile court, and adopt scientific screening and assessment tools to structure decision-making and identify needs of juvenile offenders. Competency statutes and policies have become more research-based, and youth interventions are evidence-based across a range of programs and services. Other legislative actions have increased due process protections for juveniles, reformed detention and addressed racial disparities in juvenile justice systems.

The very difficult budget climate in states recently has prompted questions about the effectiveness of punitive reforms and the high economic costs they can impose. States are re-evaluating their juvenile justice systems in order to identify methods that produce better results for kids at lower cost. This has contributed to a state legislative trend to realign fiscal resources from state institutions toward more effective community-based services.

The appendix contains citations to referenced legislation.

Conclusion: States are not complacent about juvenile crime and remain interested in providing public safety, improved juvenile justice systems and positive results for youth. The legislative trends evidenced during the past decade reflect a new understanding of adolescent development and the value of cost-benefit analysis of existing data-driven research. Investing in community-based alternatives to incarceration and evidence-based intervention programs, as well as multi-system coordination and cross-systems collaboration are among the examples of how states now are better serving youth and addressing and preventing juvenile crime.

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