Removing Status Offenders from Secure Facilities:

Federal Leadership and Guidance Are Needed

GGD-78-37: Published: Jun 5, 1978. Publicly Released: Jun 5, 1978.

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Concern has been expressed in recent years about the use of detention and correctional facilities for juveniles who are charged with or have committed status offenses such as truancy, incorrigibility, and running away. The Law Enforcement Assistance Administration (LEAA) estimates that of the youths referred to juvenile courts on status offense charges, perhaps as high as 10 percent are ultimately placed in secure institutions. The Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act of 1974 attempted to change this extensive practice by stating that LEAA could not award formula grants authorized by the act to a state unless it included a provision in its law enforcement plan that status offenders would no longer be placed in detention or correctional facilities.

Although states participating in the act have agreed to comply with the deinstitutionalization requirement, most states have laws allowing status offenders to be placed in detention or correctional facilities under certain circumstances. Most of the juvenile justice officials interviewed believed such incarcerations to be justified. Not enough alternate services for status offenders have been developed, and uncertainty exists among state and federal officials concerning appropriate dispositions. LEAA has done little to fully explore the problems that states are having in meeting the act's requirements; it has developed little information concerning the types of services that appear most effective for status offenders under various situations. Few states have established comprehensive systems to monitor jails, detention facilities, and correctional institutions although such systems are required of participating states by the act.

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