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Multilevel Analysis of Juvenile Court Processes: The Importance of Community Characteristics

NCJ Number
Date Published
June 2008
54 pages
Through a multilevel analysis of juvenile court outcomes in Arizona, this study examined how race/ethnicity and community disadvantage influenced diversion, petition, detention, adjudication, and disposition decisions throughout the State, and also examined how juvenile court outcomes affected recidivism of juveniles post age 17.
The findings reveal that racial and ethnic disparities continue to exist in juvenile courts. The disparities were found, not only in the front-end court processes, such as diversion, but they were also prevalent in back-end process, such as out-of-home placement. Highlights of findings include: (1) African-Americans, Hispanic/Latinos, and American Indian juveniles were treated more severely in juvenile court outcomes than their White counterparts; (2) juveniles who were detained were more likely to have a petition filed, less likely to have petitions dismissed, and more likely to be removed from the home at disposition; (3) juveniles from disadvantaged communities were treated more harshly than juveniles not from disadvantaged communities; and (4) juvenile courts actions (i.e., informal processing, detention, and out-of-home placement) were significant predictors of offending post age 17. Despite various Federal and State legislation aimed at producing equitable treatment of juveniles within the juvenile court system, studies continue to find that race and ethnicity play a significant role in juvenile court outcomes. The purpose of this project, supported by the U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice was to develop a comprehensive multilevel analysis of juvenile court decisionmaking processes in Arizona. The goals were (1) to establish how race and ethnicity influenced diversion, petition, detention, adjudication, and disposition decisions, (2) to use multilevel data and identify the role of community characteristics in court outcomes, and (3) to establish how juvenile court outcomes affected juvenile offenders’ recidivism rates past age 17. The project relied on data from three data sources: the Arizona Juvenile On-Line Tracking System (JOLTS) database, 2000 U.S. Census data, and the Arizona Department of Public Safety. References and tables

Date Published: June 1, 2008