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Prohibiting Secure Juvenile Detention - Assessing the Effectiveness of National Standards Detention Criteria

NCJ Number
R Kihm
Date Published
29 pages
Through an analysis of four jurisdictions, this study tried to determine whether criteria recommended for decisions on secure detention of juveniles effectively protected the court process and public safety.
The criteria were proposed by the National Advisory Committee on Standards for the Administration of Juvenile Justice. The criteria stated that juveniles should not be detained unless they are fugitives from another jurisdiction, request protection in writing, are charged with first or second degree murder, or meet other specific and objective criteria. Located in Michigan, New Mexico, Utah, and New Jersey, the four jurisdictions included two primarily urban jurisdictions and two primarily rural jurisdictions. Two counties use the detention criteria proposed by the advisory committee; the other two counties' practices do not conform to these criteria. A randomly selected sample of each jurisdiction's juvenile court referrals was analyzed in terms of detention rates, rates of failure to appear in court, and rearrest data. Results showed that jurisdictions could release juveniles not meeting the criteria without posing an increased threat to public safety or to an orderly court process. Releases based on the criteria did not affect rates of rearrest or failure to appear in court. Results suggested that all jurisdictions should test the criteria for a 2-month period. Releasing more juveniles, over half of whom are currently unnecessarily detained, would make the pretrial system more efficient and spare thousands of children the trauma of unnecessary detention. Footnotes, notes which include references, and an appendix presenting the statistical methodology are included.