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National Campaign

The National Campaign to Reform State Juvenile Justice Systems capitalized on momentum to spread juvenile justice reform beyond Models for Change Core States and made an impact in a total of 37 states. It assessed opportunities for achieving sustainable legislative and policy changes. State-based advocates and officials in target states were offered strategic communications, policy analysis, and government affairs resources to advance bipartisan reform agendas.

From 2011 through 2017, the National Campaign supported local reform initiatives in 37 states. Reformers earned at least some successes in 30 target states – or 81% of the total – enacting at least 151 juvenile justice reforms through legislation and court rules. The Campaign also helped local allies block or defeat numerous regressive measures.

National Campaign successes included measures to ensure that young people are processed in juvenile court rather than criminal court, increased use of diversion and community-based programs in lieu of incarceration, improvements in conditions of confinement, increased access to counsel, and policies that prevent school behavior from leading to justice involvement.

Raising the Age of Juvenile Jurisdiction

One of the Campaign’s signature issues was support for raising the age of juvenile court jurisdiction. In 2011, the year the Campaign launched, 13 states automatically prosecuted 17-year-olds as adults. New York and North Carolina went further, treating every arrested 16-year-old as an adult. After the laws passed in 2017 take effect, only five states will automatically continue to prosecute 17-year-olds as adults, and no state will automatically prosecute all 16-year-olds as adults. The National Campaign was active in every state that raised the age over the last 7 years, and its financial and in-kind support played a pivotal role in many of those states.

Additional National Campaign Highlights:

  • A measure was passed in California mandating parole hearings for individuals sentenced as youth to long indeterminate sentences.
  • In a total of 18 states, the Campaign helped ensure that young offenders would be treated as such by making sure that their competency to stand trial was evaluated, that age and developmental maturity became factors in sentencing, and that more youth were charged as juveniles rather than as adults.
  • The National Campaign supported successful efforts in 14 states to increase diversion and community-based programming while decreasing juvenile incarceration. Texas closed three secure juvenile prisons for adjudicated youths and approximately 45 cents of each dollar saved by these closures stayed within the juvenile justice system for mental health, substance abuse and other treatments.


Supported by

Models for Change was a juvenile justice systems reform initiative supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, website operated by Justice Policy Institute.