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Juveniles in Residential Placement, 2013
By Sarah Hockenberry, OJJDP
Published: 08/29/2016


A Message From OJJDP:

Since 1997, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention has sponsored the U.S. Census Bureau to conduct the Census of Juveniles in Residential Placement. This survey details the characteristics of youth held for delinquency and status offenses in public and private residential facilities in every state. The data provide a detailed picture of these youth, including their age, gender, race, offenses, and adjudication status.

The 2013 census shows that the number of youth in placement continues to decline. In 1997, 105,055 youth were held in out-of-home placement. Although the number of youth in confinement increased 4% between 1997 and 1999, by 2013, that number had decreased 50% to 54,148, its lowest level. Relative declines from 1997 to 2013 were greater for committed youth than for detained youth.

Females accounted for 14% of the placement population, and they tended to be slightly younger than male residents (peak age of 16 years versus 17 years). Males tended to stay in facilities longer than females. Minority youth accounted for 68% of youth in residential placement in 2013, with black males forming the largest share. The national detention rate for black youth was nearly 6 times the rate for white youth, and their commitment rate was more than 4 times the rate for white youth.

Research underscores the detrimental effects that system involvement and confinement can have on healthy adolescent development. We hope that the information in this bulletin encourages juvenile justice professionals and policymakers to adopt a developmentally appropriate approach to justice-involved youth and to reduce out-of-home placement for youth who commit nonviolent, nonserious offenses.

Robert L. Listenbee

Detailed data are available on juveniles in residential placement

Since its inception, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) has collected information on the juveniles held in juvenile detention and correctional facilities. Until 1995, these data were gathered through the biennial Census of Public and Private Juvenile Detention, Correctional, and Shelter Facilities, better known as the Children in Custody Census. In 1997, OJJDP initiated a new data collection program, the Census of Juveniles in Residential Placement (CJRP), to gather comprehensive and detailed information about youth in residential placement because of law-violating behavior.

CJRP is administered biennially and collects information from all secure and nonsecure residential placement facilities that house juvenile offenders, defined as persons younger than 21 who are held in a residential setting as a result of some contact with the justice system (that is, they are charged with or adjudicated for an offense). This encompasses both status offenses and delinquency offenses, and includes youth who are either temporarily detained by the court or committed after adjudication for an offense.

The census does not include federal facilities or those exclusively for drug or mental health treatment or for abused/ neglected youth. It also does not capture data from adult prisons or jails. Therefore, CJRP does not include all juveniles whom criminal courts sentenced to incarceration or placement in a residential facility.

The census typically takes place on the fourth Wednesday in October of the census year. CJRP asks all juvenile residential facilities in the United States to describe each person younger than 21 assigned a bed in the facility on the census date because of an offense. Facilities report individual-level information on gender, date of birth, race, placement authority, most serious offense charged, court adjudication status, and admission date.

One-day count and admission data give different views of residential populations

CJRP provides 1-day population counts of juveniles in residential placement facilities. Such counts give a picture of the standing population in facilities. One-day counts are substantially different from annual admission or release data, which provide a measure of facility population flow.

Juveniles may be committed to a facility as part of a court-ordered disposition, or they may be detained prior to adjudication or after adjudication while awaiting disposition or placement elsewhere. In addition, a small proportion of juveniles may be admitted voluntarily in lieu of adjudication as part of a diversion agreement. Because detention stays tend to be short compared with commitment placement, detained juveniles represent a much larger share of population flow data than of 1-day count data.

State variations in upper age of juvenile court jurisdiction influence placement rates

Although state placement rate statistics control for upper age of original juvenile court jurisdiction, comparisons among states with different upper ages are problematic. Youth ages 16 and 17 constitute 25% of the general youth population ages 10–17, but they account for more than 53% of arrests of youth younger than age 18, more than 44% of delinquency court cases, and more than 54% of juveniles in residential placement. If all other factors were equal, one would expect higher juvenile placement rates in states where older youth are under juvenile court jurisdiction.

Differences in age limits of extended jurisdiction also influence placement rates. Some states may keep a juvenile in placement for several years beyond the upper age of original jurisdiction; others cannot. Laws that control the transfer of juveniles to criminal court also affect juvenile placement rates. If all other factors were equal, states with broad transfer provisions would be expected to have lower juvenile placement rates than other states.

Demographic variations among jurisdictions should also be considered. The urbanicity and economy of an area are thought to be related to crime and placement rates. Available bedspace also influences placement rates, particularly in rural areas.

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