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Juvenile Justice: Facts And Figures

Juvenile Justice: Facts And Figures

How much juvenile crime is there?

    General trends
    Ninety-four percent of juveniles were arrest-free in 1994. Of the six percent who were arrested, about seven percent were arrested for a Violent Crime Index offense.

    In 1985 there were 1,557,897 arrests of juveniles under the age of 18.
    In 1994 there were 1,999,442 such arrests, an increase of 28 percent.

    Non-violent crimes: Arrests increased 27 percent between 1985 and 1994, from 1,490,921 to 1,888,242.

    Violent crimes: Arrests increased by 75 percent between 1985 and 1994, from 66,976 to 117,200.

    Recent good news
    However, arrests for violent crime dropped in 1995, to 115,592; arrests for homicide fell more than 17 percent between 1993 and 1995.

How much of juvenile crime is violent crime?

    Justice Department figures show that 94 percent of juvenile arrests every year are for non-violent offenses. About six percent of juvenile crime is violent.

    Juveniles account Offenders under the age of 18 commit one in five violent crimes. for 20% of violent offenses

    Violence is Less than one-half of one percent of juveniles aged 10 to 17 were arrested concentrated for violent offenses in 1994.

      About a third of all juvenile arrests for homicide occur in just four cities -- Los Angeles, Chicago, Detroit and New York.

      Only 10 percent of counties across the country had more than one juvenile homicide in 1994; 80 percent had none at all.

    Impact of guns
      Guns have played a critical role in the increase in violent youth crime in the last decade. The number of juvenile arrests for homicides committed without guns has stayed the same since 1984, while the number of arrests for homicides with guns quadrupled.

      Juvenile arrests for weapons law violations increased by 103 percent between 1985 and 1994.

    Impact of gangs

      Ninety-five percent of America's biggest cities, and 88 percent of smaller cities, suffer from gang-related crime. Up to 90 percent of gang members are juveniles.

      Juvenile murders are often linked to gangs. Los Angeles County, for example, estimates that more than 40 percent of all killings are attributed to gangs, more than double the percentage 10 years ago.

How prevalent are drugs among juveniles?

    The numbers are Illegal drug use by eighth graders has increased by 150 percent over the rising past five years.

    The number of juveniles 12-17 years of age admitting to having used drugs in the past month more than doubled between 1992 (5.3 percent) and 1995 (10.9 percent).

    Percentage of 12- to 17-year-olds who reported drug use at least one time during the month preceding the survey
    DRUG199219941995percent increase
    percent increase
    Any illegal drug 5.3 percent 8.2 percent 10.9 percent 105 percent 33 percent
    Marijuana 3.4 6.0 8.2 141 37
    Cocaine 0.3 0.3 0.8 166 166
    Hallucinogens 0.6 1.1 1.7 183 54

    Source: National Household Survey on Drug Abuse

    Alcohol use is also rising
    Between 1995 and 1996, the percentage of eighth graders reporting daily use of alcohol increased from 0.7 percent to one percent, while the percentage of eighth graders reporting having "been drunk" in the past month increased from 8.3 percent to 9.6 percent. Twenty-one percent of 10th graders and 31.3 percent of 12th graders report having been drunk in the past month.

Is juvenile justice primarily a state or federal concern?

    In 1994 (the latest year for which statistics are available), 855,000 cases were formally processed in the state juvenile justice systems.

    In 1995 (the latest year for which statistics are available), 122 cases were formally processed in the federal juvenile justice system.

What can be done about juvenile crime?

    Early intervention
    A recent study by the RAND Corporation (Diverting Children from a and prevention Life of Crime: What are the Costs and Benefits? May 1996) found programs work that early intervention and prevention programs are cost-effective solutions for reducing the juvenile crime rate.

    A study by Public/Private Ventures (Making A Difference, 1995) showed that children with Big Brothers and Big Sisters were less likely to abuse drugs or alcohol, or to have trouble in school.

    An ongoing program in Orange County, Calif. (8% Early Intervention Program), which targets resources to the eight percent of juveniles most likely to pass through the juvenile justice system, providing intensive delinquency supervision and such services as mentoring and tutoring, has reduced repeat offenses by 50 percent -- at one-third the cost of incarceration.

    In Boston, a three-prong program of prevention, intervention and enforcement aimed at violent youth offenders has, over five years, reduced the number of youth homicides by 80 percent, with not a single youth dying in a firearm homicide in more than a year.

What is Congress doing about the juvenile crime problem?

    Block grants to states that "get tough" on juvenile crime
    The House and Senate are each working on bills that would provide some $1.5 billion to states that change their laws to punish juvenile offenders more severely. To qualify, the states would have to allow most juveniles age 14 or 15, or older, who commit a serious violent or drug crime, to be tried as adults either automatically or at the sole discretion of the prosecutor. The Senate bill would also lower from 18 to 16 the minimum age at which a sentence of death can be imposed.

What is the ABA's position on these proposals?

    We should be concerned with getting smart, not tough
    Recent studies in Florida and New York/New Jersey have shown that juveniles tried as adults and sentenced to adult facilities are, when they are released, more likely to revert to crime more quickly, and to commit more serious crimes, than those tried and sentenced within the juvenile justice system.

    The block grants will not only not provide funding for programs that have been shown to work, such as those in Boston and Orange County, but will instead give incentives to states to do just the opposite -- to divert their efforts from prevention and intervention to retribution, which has been shown generally not to work.

    The decision to The ABA opposes automatically trying children as adults, or giving prosecute a child prosecutors the sole power to make that decision. Such a decision, which as an adult should has such serious, long-term consequences for both the offender and the be made by a public, should be made by an independent judge following a hearing as to judge the circumstances of both the child and the crime.

What should be the goals of the juvenile justice system?

    Prevention and intervention
    The ABA believes that public protection is best ensured when the system is not retributive but instead teaches juveniles the consequences of violating the law, while taking into account their unique physical, psychological and social features. An approach that merely advocates locking up juveniles is short-sighted and expensive. Most juveniles who come in contact with the juvenile justice system will benefit from services designed to fit their needs. Juveniles in trouble with the law should be taught accountability, and provided with the tools they need to become productive members of society.

Don't Abandon Our Children to Conveyor Belt Justice