Improved Federal Efforts Needed To Change Juvenile Detention Practices

GGD-83-23: Published: Mar 22, 1983. Publicly Released: Mar 22, 1983.

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GAO examined the efforts that states, localities, and federal agencies are making to change their juvenile detention policies and practices and identified opportunities for further improvement.

GAO found that juvenile detention practices have improved since passage of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act of 1974, but problems still exist. Although the number of juveniles admitted to detention centers appears to have decreased by about 14.6 percent from 1975 to 1979, GAO found questionable detention practices in all five of the states it visited. About 39 percent of the juveniles detained in detention centers and jails in the states reviewed were not charged with serious offenses. Suggested standards for physical conditions and services were not met by many of the detention facilities, and some jails used isolation-type cells to separate juveniles from adult prisoners. Juvenile detention policies and practices of five federal agencies do not always adhere to the objectives of the act. The Bureau of Indian Affairs' standards require juveniles to be held in cells apart from adults, but allow them to be within the sight and sound of adult prisoners. Policies of the Marshals Service and the Immigration and Naturalization Service could result in juveniles' being transported in vehicles with adults. The National Park Service (NPS) picks up runaways and turns them over to local authorities, possibly resulting in their detention. Further, the agencies' systems of inspecting law enforcement programs and detention facilities for adherence to their policies and national juvenile justice standards were not adequate.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Attorney General and the Secretary of Interior should direct their respective agencies to: cooperate with OJJDP and the Coordinating Council in conforming their policies and practices to the act's objectives; and establish recordkeeping and monitoring programs that adequately account for juvenile detention practices and help determine whether the act's objectives are being achieved.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Attorney General should require OJJDP to actively promote the objectives of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act by providing technical assistance and information needed to adopt appropriate policies and practices.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Attorney General should require OJJDP to actively promote the objectives of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act by adopting a strong policy formulation role and through working with the Federal Coordinating Council, identifying the policies and practices of other federal agencies that are inconsistent with the act's objectives.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Based on this recommendation and conclusions presented in a testimony on March 7, 1984, and in GGD-84-85, dated July 9, 1984, Congress amended the act to require OJJDP to audit monitoring systems and review the adequacy of such systems. The long-term effect cannot be determined at this time.

    Recommendation: The Attorney General should require OJJDP to assist states and localities in improving their monitoring and recordkeeping systems to adequately account for juvenile detention practices.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

  5. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: OJJDP officials contend that actions taken under other recommendations will allow states to accomplish the goal of this objective. GAO disagrees but does not believe it could convince the agency that more is needed.

    Recommendation: The Attorney General should require OJJDP to assist states and localities in identifying areas where additional nonsecure detention alternatives are needed, developing methods of providing alternatives, and coordinating the alternatives with local detention decisionmakers.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

  6. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: OJJDP has taken actions including: direct assistance by OJJDP officials; a contract to transfer technical information to the states; technical assistance monographs, and a jail removal assistance package. No accomplishment report will be prepared because it would require a substantial amount of review work to determine actual accomplishments in the states.

    Recommendation: The Attorney General should require OJJDP to increase assistance to states and localities by providing technical information on how other states and localities have successfully dealt with juvenile detention problems.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

  7. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: OJJDP entered into a cooperative agreement with the National Center of Legislative Research to develop the legislation and train officials in its use; federal funding was denied. Congress amended the act to authorize the National Institute for Juvenile Justice and Delinquency to develop and support the legislation. If properly implemented, this would be fully responsive.

    Recommendation: The Attorney General should require OJJDP to develop and support the adoption of model State legislation that would, if implemented, conform secure detention practices in the States to standards consistent with the objectives of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

  8. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: OJJDP entered into a cooperative agreement with the Commission on Accreditation for Corrections to sponsor training conferences that train juvenile officials about the standards and assist in adopting the standards. Congress amended the JJDP Act to authorize grants and contracts to develop state programs that establish and adopt the standards GAO used as criteria.

    Recommendation: The Attorney General should require the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) to encourage States to adopt and implement standards that provide specific detention criteria which limit the use of secure detention to appropriate purposes and require adequate care and services for detained juveniles.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

  9. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Attorney General and the Secretary of Interior should direct their respective agencies to: cooperate with OJJDP and the Coordinating Council in conforming their policies and practices to the act's objectives; and establish recordkeeping and monitoring programs that adequately account for juvenile detention practices and help determine whether the act's objectives are being achieved.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

 

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