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Decision Making in the Juvenile Justice System: A Comparative Study of Four States

NCJ Number
Date Published
June 2001
363 pages
Publication Series
This document discusses how courts and State service agencies organize and structure the decisions that process juveniles in the juvenile justice system in four States.
The States studied were Michigan, Ohio, Illinois, and Indiana. Processing decisions and the perceptions of court personnel were compared in 12 juvenile courts in the 4 States. Decisions about case processing were examined to determine whether they could be made more rational and fair through the development and application of structured decision making related to accountability-based sanctions. Analysis of the juvenile codes in the four States identified the following trends in juvenile code changes: shifting borders, decision making for transfer, prosecutors’ authority, increased tools for juvenile court, more punitive correctional programming, justice by geography, restrictions on judicial discretion, and availability of resources. The most significant finding was the variability within and among the States with regard to the numbers of juveniles processed and the patterns of processing from initial detention through placement. This includes the various programs available for juveniles and the extent of reintegration services when they returned from institutions. The four States had a long history of juvenile courts and juvenile justice systems, beginning in the early 20th century. They exhibited tremendous variation in legislation, court structures and administration, resource structures, and community and cultural contexts, which influenced case processing and outcomes both within and between States. It is recommended that the following areas be addressed: overprocessing, minority over-representation, increasing involvement of females in the juvenile justice system, information systems, role of prosecutors, defense counsel, increasingly punitive mandates of juvenile codes, structured decision making and the service continuum, accountability, community involvement, specialty courts, judicial leadership, and human rights. 67 tables, 13 figures, 4 appendices

Date Published: June 1, 2001