Noncriminal Juveniles:

Detentions Have Been Reduced but Better Monitoring Is Needed

GGD-91-65: Published: Apr 24, 1991. Publicly Released: Apr 24, 1991.

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Pursuant to a legislative requirement, GAO reviewed states' detention of juvenile status offenders in compliance with the Department of Justice's Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention's (OJJDP) grant program, focusing on: (1) the extent to which states have detained such offenders; (2) states' efforts to comply with federal goals and regulations in detaining offenders; and (3) whether the juvenile court system provided such offenders procedural protections.

GAO found that: (1) overall, states reported significant reductions in the number of detained status offenders with almost a 95-percent reduction in the detention of status offenders since joining the OJJDP grant program; (2) in 1988, 25 states reported detaining about 5,300 status offenders who violated valid court orders, a valid exclusion from the reporting requirement, with 5 states accounting for 70 percent of the claimed exclusions; (3) an OJJDP audit of states' compliance data and monitoring systems identified errors in monitoring practices; (4) states indicated that, since OJJDP initiated such audits, they either began or completed actions to improve their monitoring practices; (5) OJJDP critical exclusion assessments resulted in its rejection of 710 claimed exclusions in 1988 that did not meet its regulations, but those rejections did not result in any state exceeding the minimal threshold of less than 29.4 per 100,000 of all persons under 18 years old within the state; (6) investigation of three states' secured detention facilities showed that they did not consistently provide procedural protections to offenders; (7) six states reported that they did not comply with federal regulations requiring procedural protection verifications for detained defenders; (8) states could remain in compliance with grant program regulations by not exceeding the minimum threshold; and (9) states could accomplish such a level of compliance by excluding reported cases of detentions where juveniles violated a valid court order.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: OJJDP plans audits which addressed the recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Attorney General should direct the Administrator, OJJDP, to concentrate its oversight on the monitoring efforts states make to ensure compliance with its regulations, particularly with respect to offenders' procedural protections. Specifically, its efforts should be directed at those states who would exceed their minimal threshold of status offenders detained in security facilities should OJJDP disallow some or all of their valid court order reported exclusions.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice


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