U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

NCJRS Virtual Library

The Virtual Library houses over 235,000 criminal justice resources, including all known OJP works.
Click here to search the NCJRS Virtual Library

Delinquents or Criminals: Policy Options for Young Offenders

NCJ Number
J A Butts; A V Harrell
Date Published
20 pages
Reducing juvenile crime is likely to remain a policy priority in the foreseeable future for Federal and State officials in the United States, especially because juvenile crime often attracts more attention than adult crime from policy makers and the media.
According to recent data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, juvenile arrests for violent crimes fell by 6 percent between 1995 and 1996 but juvenile arrests for all offenses increased by 3 percent during the same period. The growth in juvenile court caseloads is largely due to the growth in juvenile arrests, but police are also increasingly likely to send arrested juveniles to court rather than use alternatives such as informal probation. Juvenile courts have changed considerably over the past 30 years, and purposes and procedures of these courts have become very similar to those of adult criminal courts. Even though extreme violence by young people is rare, the reaction to it reflects public opinion about the juvenile justice system. Juveniles who violate the law are no longer guaranteed special treatment simply because they are young. The authors believe innovative responses to young offenders and juvenile court reform are needed. Specialty courts, such as drug courts, gun courts, and community-based courts, should blend with the juvenile court process. Recognizing that meaningful reforms in juvenile justice and crime control policies have been difficult to achieve, policy makers should focus on the importance of a juvenile justice system that has a diverse menu of options for young offenders. Specific policy options for young offenders are identified. 35 references and 4 figures