Figure 1: Juveniles in Residential Placement, 1997-2010
More than 70,000 young persons were detained in residential placements in 2010; however, the rate of juvenile detention has been declining since 1999. Racial/ethnic minorities are heavily overrepresented in this population.
Juvenile delinquency* has potentially high stakes for both individuals and society as a whole. Delinquency is linked to higher crime rates in adulthood and other negative outcomes. One estimate suggests that between 50 and 75 percent of adolescents who have spent time in juvenile detention centers are incarcerated later in life.2
The juvenile justice system is based on the premise that adolescents have needs and capacities different from adults’. Adolescents are still developing mentally, physically, and emotionally, and they are forming their identities. As a result, juveniles who break the law should be treated differently than adults who do.3 Following a rise in juvenile crime in the late 1980s and early 1990s, ‘get tough on crime’ policies led to an increase in the number of children being tried as adults and being committed to adult facilities.4 Such settings can be harmful to adolescents. Juveniles may face higher risks of rape, assault, and suicide when placed in adult prisons, although reliable statistics are lacking.5 Even in juvenile facilities, though, children may be victimized by staff members. According to a national survey conducted in 2008-09, an estimated 12 percent of young people in juvenile facilities reported sexual victimization by staff members or a peer.6
Mental health needs are often urgent for adolescents in the justice system. Many have mental illness (estimates range as high as 60 percent, compared with 20 percent among the total adolescent population).7 In juvenile detention facilities, many of these problems go untreated or are dealt with inadequately.8 Suicide rates in juvenile detention facilities are more than four times higher than for adolescents overall.9 Suicide is even more likely for adolescents confined in isolation.10
(*“Juveniles” generally refers to those under age 18, but the definition varies by state; those who fall under juvenile court jurisdiction may be under 17, for example. Delinquency is defined as behavior that would be considered illegal if committed by adults.)
Rates of Juveniles in residential placement fell throughout the previous decade. In 2010, 225 juveniles per 100,000 population (92,854 total) were in residential placements, compared with 356 per 100,000 in 1997. (Figure 1)
Differences by Gender
Males are much more likely than females to be in residential placement. In 2010, 87 percent of all juveniles in residential placement were male. (Appendix 1) This proportion has fluctuated, but in general has not changed since 1997.
Female adolescents are committed to facilities at higher rates than in some past years, although the rates in 2010 were lower than the 20-year peak in 1997.11 According to one study, the majority of females in the juvenile justice system report experiencing physical, sexual, or emotional victimization. Many girls first enter the system as runaways or for other status offenses (offenses not considered illegal for adults), and cite abuse at home as one of the main reasons for leaving. Once in the system, they often do not receive adequate treatment, and may have different needs than their male counterparts.12 In 2010, eleven percent of female adolescents in residential placement were there because of status offences, compared with three percent of male adolescents. However, this gap is shrinking: in 1997, 23 percent of girls in residential placement were there because of status offences, versus four percent of boys. (Figure 2)
Differences by Type of Offense
Most juveniles in residential placement (96 percent in 2010) are there because of delinquency. The other four percent have committed status offenses (behaviors that are illegal for underage persons but not for adults, such as running away, incorrigibility [i.e., “beyond the control of parents, guardians, or custodians”], and truancy) as their most serious offense.13 In 2010, 26 percent of juveniles in residential placement had violent crimes14 as their most serious offense, and 20 percent had property crimes15 as their most serious offense. Only one percent had committed criminal homicide. Seven percent had committed drug-related offenses, and 11 percent had as their most serious offense disturbances to the public order. (Appendix 2)
Differences by Race and Hispanic Origin16
In 2010, Asian and white males had the lowest rates of placement in juvenile detention (80 and 208 per 100,000 population, respectively). Hispanic males had a rate of 399 per 100,000, followed by American Indian males at 541, and black males at 1,047 per 100,000). (Figure 3)
As in the case of males, female black and American Indian adolescents had the highest rates of placement in residential detention (146 and 188 per 100,000, respectively, in 2010). White females were also less likely to be in residential placement (42 per 100,000 in 2010) than were Hispanic females (50 per 100,000). Asian females were the least likely to be in residential placement, with a rate of 12 per 100,000. (Figure 3)
Rates of residential placement for Hispanic, Asian, and black adolescents have been decreasing since 1997, while rates for white adolescents began to decline in 2001. For American Indian adolescents, rates increased from 1997 to 2001, then declined until 2007, with the exception of a small uptick in 2006. Rates have remained steady since then. (Appendix 1)
State and Local Estimates
State estimates of the number of juveniles in residential placements or corrections facilities through 2006 are available from the KIDS COUNT Data Center at: http://datacenter.kidscount.org/data/acrossstates/Rankings.aspx?loct=2&map_colors=Solid&ch=33&dtm=320&ind=42&tf=17
Further subgroup breaks by state through 2010 are available from the Census of Juveniles in Residential Placement. Available online at: http://www.ojjdp.gov/ojstatbb/ezacjrp/asp/State_Comparison.asp
What Works to Make Progress on This Indicator
Child Trends’ LINKS database of evaluated programs identifies the following as showing impact on reducing or preventing incarceration of young adults:
Also see: Greenwood, P. (2008). Prevention and intervention programs for juvenile offenders. The Future of Children, 18(2), 185-210. Available at: http://www.futureofchildren.org/futureofchildren/publications/docs/18_02_09.pdf
Also see Henggeler, S. W. & Schoenwald, S. K. (2011). Evidence-based interventions for juvenile offenders and juvenile justice policies that support them. Social Policy Report, 25(1), 3-20.
Juveniles (under age 18) in residential placement are defined as those who were assigned a bed in a juvenile residential custody facility in the U.S. on the last Wednesday in October.
Rates are computed per 100,000 juveniles ages 10 through the upper age of each state’s juvenile court jurisdiction. The number of children younger than 10 in residential placement is not large enough to warrant the inclusion of younger age groups in the denominator of rate calculations. States’ upper age limits of original juvenile court jurisdiction in 2008 are available at: http://nicic.gov/Library/025365
Data do not include those juveniles in adult facilities or those juveniles held exclusively in drug treatment or mental health facilities.
Sickmund, M., Sladky, T.J., and Kang, W. (2008). Census of juveniles in residential placement databook. Available: http://www.ojjdp.gov/ojstatbb/ezacjrp/
Raw Data Source
OJJDP’s Census of Juveniles in Residential Placement 1997, 1999, 2001, 2003,2006, 2007 and 2010 Available at: http://www.icpsr.umich.edu/icpsrweb/ICPSR/series/241
Recommended Citation: Child Trends (2012). Juvenile Detention. Retrieved from www.childtrendsdatabank.org/?q=node/129.
Last Updated: May 2012
1Nagin, D. S., & Paternoster, R. (1991). On the relationship of past to future participation in delinquency. Criminology, 29(2), 163-189.
2Estimates vary depending on how recidivism is measured and what time period is used.
3Bernard, T. J. (1991). The cycle of juvenile justice. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
4Bilchik, S. (1999). Juvenile justice: A century of change [Electronic Version]. 1999 National Report Series, Juvenile Justice Bulletin. Available at: https://www.ncjrs.gov/html/ojjdp/9912_2/contents.html. Also see Child Trends DataBank indicator: Young Adults in Jail or Prison.
5Flaherty, M. G. (1983). The national incidence of juvenile suicide in adult jails and juvenile detention centers. Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior, 13(2), 85-94.
Hayes, L. M. (2009). Characteristics of juvenile suicide in confinement [Electronic Version]. Juvenile Justice Bulletin. Retrieved December 21, 2009 from http://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/ojjdp/214434.pdf.
Schiraldi, V., & Zeidenberg, J. (1997). The risks juveniles face when they are incarcerated with adults [Electronic Version] from http://www.justicepolicy.org/images/upload/97-02_REP_RiskJuvenilesFace_JJ.pdf.
Schiraldi, V., & Zeidenberg, J. (1999). The Florida Experiment: An analysis of the impact of granting prosecutors discretion to try juveniles as adults [Electronic Version] from http://www.justicepolicy.org/images/upload/99-07_REP_FLExperiment_JJ.pdf.
6Beck, A. J., Harrison, P. M., & Guerino, P. (2010). Sexual victimization in juvenile facilities reported by youth, 2008-09 [Electronic Version] from http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/content/pub/pdf/svjfry09.pdf.
7Kamradt, B. (2000). Wraparound Milwaukee: Aiding youth with mental health needs [Electronic Version]. Juvenile Justice, 7, 14-23 from https://www.ncjrs.gov/html/ojjdp/jjjnl_2000_4/wrap.html.
8Cocozza, J., & Skowyra, K. (2000). Youth with mental health disorders: Issues and emerging responses [Electronic Version]. Juvenile Justice, 7, 3-13. Available at: https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/ojjdp/178256.pdf.
9Hayes, L. M. (2000). Suicide prevention in juvenile facilities [Electronic Version]. Juvenile Justice, 7, 24-32. Available at: https://www.ncjrs.gov/html/ojjdp/jjjnl_2000_4/sui.html
11Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. (2011, October 16). OJJDP statistical briefing book. Online.Available at: http://www.ojjdp.gov/ojstatbb/crime/JAR_Display.asp?ID=qa05230
12Hoyt, S., & Scherer, D. (1998). Female juvenile delinquency: Misunderstood by the juvenile justice system, neglected by social science. Law and Human Behavior, 22(1), 81-107.
13More-specific definitions of incorrigibility vary by state. For more information see Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. (n.d.). Deinstitutionalization of status offenders promising practices nomination form [Electronic Version] from http://www.ojjdp.gov/programs/DSOpromisingpractices2009.pdf
14The violent crime index includes criminal homicide, violent sexual assault, robbery, and aggravated assault.
15The property crime index includes burglary, theft, auto theft, and arson.
16Hispanics may be of any race.