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Delinquency Case Processing in the Juvenile Justice System

NCJ Number
Corrections Forum Volume: 11 Issue: 4 Dated: July/August 2002 Pages: 58,60,62
Joseph N. Coffee; Scott Pestridge
Date Published
July 2002
3 pages
This article provides an overview of the general features of delinquency case processing in a juvenile justice system.
Juveniles alleged to have violated a law generally enter the juvenile justice system through police action; however, each State's processing of juvenile arrestees is unique; and even within States, case processing often varies from community to community. In many jurisdictions, police agencies are authorized to divert many juvenile offenders from formal processing in the juvenile justice system. Most juvenile court cases are referred by police, with such referrals accounting for 85 percent of all delinquency cases referred to juvenile court in 1992. During the processing of a case, a juvenile may be held in a secure detention facility if the court believes such detention is in the best interest of the community or the juvenile. Prosecutors may file a case in either juvenile or criminal court. In many States prosecutors are required by law to file certain (generally serious) cases involving juveniles in the criminal court. Also, intake staff may ask the juvenile court to transfer a case to criminal court. Between the adjudication decision and the disposition hearing, an investigation report is prepared by probation staff. Most juvenile dispositions are multifaceted. A probation order, for example, may include additional requirements such as drug counseling, weekend confinement in the local detention center, and community or victim restitution. The judge may order the juvenile committed to a residential placement. The facility may be publicly or privately operated and may have a secure prison-like environment or a more open, even home-like setting. Following release from a residential facility, juvenile aftercare provisions are similar to those of adult parole. The Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act discourages the holding of juvenile status offenders in secure juvenile facilities, either for detention or placement, except under special, prescribed circumstances.