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Kids Doing Time for What's Not a Crime: The Over-Incarceration of Status Offenders

Published Mar 18, 2014, Marc Levin & Derek Cohen, Texas Public Policy Foundation

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This new report from the Texas Public Policy Foundation was developed in order to produce an up-to-date understanding of the nation’s progress in reducing confinement of status offenders, utilizing newly available data on youth confined in the U.S., in combination with previously available data on juvenile court statistics. Under current federal law, states are subject to the loss of federal juvenile justice funding if status offenders—those offenders whose acts would not be considered criminal if committed by adult—are kept in a secure institution unless the exception for violating a court order applies. This stemmed from the overuse of incarceration to handle nonviolent, minor offenses like running away and truancy.

Such punishments have proven to be costlier than alternatives, are largely ineffective (and, in some cases, counterproductive) at enhancing public safety, and are detrimental to the youth’s development. In the report, we address the causes of status offenders’ behavior and the impact of court-ordered confinement on their futures while examining the extent to which the nation’s juvenile courts are relying on alternatives to confinement for these youth.

View a timeline of the history of status offenses here.

Reform areas: Status offense/truancy

Categories: Status offense/truancy

Uploaded Mar 18, 2014


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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.