juvenile justice
homefour casesfrom both sidesfacts & stats
basic statistics

juvenile crime

Juvenile violent crime is at its lowest level since 1987, and fell 30% between 1994 and 1998. .[1]

Fewer than half of serious violent crimes by juveniles are reported to law enforcement. This number has not changed significantly in 20 years.[2]

The rate at which juveniles committed serious violent crimes changed little between 1973 and 1989, peaked in 1993, and by 1997 declined to the lowest level since 1986.[3]

On average, juveniles were involved in one-quarter of all serious violent victimizations (not including murder) committed annually over the last 25 years.[4]

Juvenile Arrests

In 1999, law enforcement officers arrested an estimated 2.5 million juveniles. Approximately 104,000 of these arrests were for violent crimes. The most common offense was larceny-theft.[5]

Juveniles accounted for 16% percent of all violent crime arrests and 32% of all property crime arrests in 1999. They accounted for 54% of all arson arrests, 42% of vandalism arrests, 31% of larceny-theft arrests, and 33% of burglary arrests.[6]

Juvenile arrest rates for violent crimes are down: the percentage of all juveniles arrested for violent crimes fell to an 11 year low in 1999, to 339 for every 100,000 individuals ages 12-17. This represents a 36% drop from the peak year 1994.[7]

Juvenile arrest rates for property crimes remained relatively stable between 1980 and 1999. In 1998, for every 100,000 youth in the United States ages 10 through 17, there were 1,751 arrests of juveniles for property offenses.[8]

Juvenile court cases

The nation's juvenile courts disposed of more than 1.7 million delinquency cases in 1997. ("Delinquency" offenses are those committed by a juvenile which would be crimes if committed by an adult). Two thousand of those were for criminal homicide, 6,500 for forcible rape, and 67,900 for aggravated assault. More than 180,000 were for drug related offenses.[9]

The overall delinquency caseload was 48% larger in 1997 than it was in 1988, and four times as large as it was in 1960.[10]

Juveniles in adult court

Nationwide, it is becoming easier to try juveniles in adult criminal court. Between 1992 and 1997, 44 states and the District of Columbia passed laws making it facilitating the transfer of juveniles to the adult system..[11]

Two states -Vermont and Kansas--provide statutory provisions for trying children as young as 10 years old in adult criminal court.[12]

The number of juvenile cases waived into adult criminal court peaked in 1994 when 11,700 cases were transferred. By 1997, this number was down to 8400.[13]

In 1996, juvenile courts waived jurisdiction over 1% of all formally processed delinquency cases, sending the juvenile offenders involved to adult criminal court.[14]

Juveniles in correctional facilities

Black juveniles are held in residential custody in the United States at twice the rate for Hispanics and five times the rates for whites.[15]

On an average day in 1997, approximately 106,000 juvenile offenders under 21 were living in residential placement facilities.[16] Forty percent of the offenders were black and 37.5 percent were white. Eighteen and one-half percent were Hispanic.[17] The vast majority (86.5%) were male.[18]

The juvenile system does work: a 1996 Florida study found that youth transferred to adult prisons had approximately a 30% higher recidivism rate than youth who stayed in the juvenile system.[19]
For discussion of this and other studies on the effects of the trying juvenile offenders as adults, see "What the Studies Show."


[1] Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, press release, November 1999. http://ojjdp.ncjrs.org/about/press/ojp991123.html

[2] National Crime Victimization Survey, cited in Juvenile Offenders and Victims: 1999 National Report (OJJDP). http://ojjdp.ncjrs.org/ojstatbb/qa135.html

[3] http://ojjdp.ncjrs.org/ojstatbb/qa135.html

[4] http://ojjdp.ncjrs.org/ojstatbb/qa136.html

[5] http://ojjdp.ncjrs.org/ojstatbb/qa250.html

[6] http://ojjdp.ncjrs.org/ojstatbb/qa251.html

[7] http://ojjdp.ncjrs.org/ojstatbb/qa256.html

[8] http://ojjdp.ncjrs.org/ojstatbb/qa261.html

[9] http://ojjdp.ncjrs.org/ojstatbb/qa179.html

[10] http://ojjdp.ncjrs.org/ojstatbb/qa182.html

[11] http://ojjdp.ncjrs.org/ojstatbb/qa091.html

[12] in 1997, http://ojjdp.ncjrs.org/ojstatbb/da089.html

[13] http://ojjdp.ncjrs.org/ojstatbb/qa191.html

[14] OJJDP, Juvenile Offenders and Victims, 1999 National Report p. 99

[15] OJJDP, Juvenile Offenders and Victims, 1999 National Report p. 192-7

[16] Juvenile Offenders in Residential Facilities, 1997; OJJDP Fact Sheet #96, March 1999; http://www.ncjrs.org/txtfiles1/fs9996.txt

[17] Juvenile Offenders in Residential Facilities, 1997; OJJDP Fact Sheet #96, March 1999; http://www.ncjrs.org/txtfiles1/fs9996.txt

[18] Juvenile Offenders in Residential Facilities, 1997; OJJDP Fact Sheet #96, March 1999; http://www.ncjrs.org/txtfiles1/fs9996.txt

[19]Donna Bishop, et al, The Transfer of Juveniles to Criminal Court, 42 Crime and Delinquency 171 (1996)

manny · shawn · marquese · jose
from both sides of the bench · facts & stats · related report: little criminals
discussion · synopsis · press · tapes & transcripts · credits
FRONTLINE · wgbh · pbs

web site copyright 1995-2014 WGBH educational foundation