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Easily Overstated: Estimating the Relationship Between State Justice Policy Environments and Falling Rates of Youth Confinement

NCJ Number
Date Published
September 2019
55 pages
This study used state data on youth justice policies and practices to examine the link between state policy environments and recent changes in the use of residential placement (confinement) for adjudicated youth.
A score was assigned to each of the 50 states based on researchers' assessment of the state's juvenile justice policy environment on a scale that ranged from punitive (regressive) to rehabilitative (progressive). In this effort, the research team considered 16 juvenile justice policies in terms of their rehabilitative intent, their compatibility with developmental science, their focus on the use of "least restrictive" settings, and their consistency with civil liberties that stem from a balanced restraint on government powers in public-safety endeavors. This policy assessment was based on data obtained from the National Center for Juvenile Justice's compendium of justice system characteristics, entitled Juvenile Justice, Geography, Policy, Practice & Statistics (JJGPS). The maximum score for each state was 16, with higher scores assigned to states assessed as having more progressive policy environments. Researchers modeled the association between state policy environments and youth confinement rates in a series of latent growth analyses, using the Census of Juveniles in Residential Placement, which is administered by the U.S. Justice Department's Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP). There was little evidence of a link between state policy environments and youth confinement rates between 1997 and 2015. The researchers conclude that until more appropriate data are available, such as local policies and practices, any link between juvenile justice policies and youth confinement rates will remain elusive. 10 tables, 1 figure, and 81 references

Date Published: September 1, 2019