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Delays in Youth Justice

NCJ Number
Date Published
September 2009
122 pages
After reviewing the literature on court processing delays and the types of delay most characteristic of delinquency cases in juvenile and family courts, this study presents the results of three case studies of juvenile courts in the American Midwest, each of which used a different approach in reducing juvenile court delays.
The literature review found that only one major study of juvenile justice delays has been published in the United States, and the data used in that study are now more than 10 years old (Butts and Halemba, 1996; Butts, 1997). Among the study's sample of 54 large counties (those with populations exceeding 400,000), the median time to disposition for formally petitioned delinquency cases ranged from 85 days to 75 days. The average median among juvenile courts was 80 days. Forty-two percent of cases in these jurisdictions had disposition times that exceeded 90 days. These disposition times still exceed the recommended standards promulgated by various national organizations and commissions over the past 30 years. The three case studies - which were conducted in Hamilton County, OH; Kent County, MI.; and Peoria County, IL. - point to two common themes critical for success in controlling case-processing times. First, success in addressing court delay requires a court culture that is committed to case management. In all three jurisdictions, staff members take pride in their efforts to reduce delay, which facilitates the successful implementation of whatever case management system has been implemented. Second, routine and shared communication is vital for any successful case management system regardless of the level of automation. All three courts generate regular reports that illustrate and compare case-processing timeliness, often between courtrooms and judges. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to case management. The best case management systems are tailored to fit each individual court. 5 tables, 6 figures, 169 references, and appended reporting forms

Date Published: September 1, 2009