Juvenile Justice:

Federal Funding of Juvenile-Specific Law Enforcement Programs

GGD-98-113R: Published: May 29, 1998. Publicly Released: Jun 22, 1998.

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Norman J. Rabkin
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO determined the number of federally funded programs that are designed specifically for juvenile law enforcement activities at the state and local government levels, and the funding levels of these federal programs.

GAO noted that: (1) according to the Department of Justice (DOJ) officials it interviewed, almost all federal support for juvenile law enforcement activities comes through grants made to states and local agencies; (2) unlike state and local criminal justice systems, the federal system prosecutes and incarcerates very few juveniles each year; (3) for example, according to a Bureau of Justice Statistics special report, U.S. attorneys filed cases against 240 persons for alleged acts of juvenile delinquency in 1995; (4) further, 45 (37 percent) of the juveniles in these cases were committed to correctional facilities; (5) of the remaining 77 (63 percent) juvenile cases adjudicated delinquent, 72 were placed on probation, and 5 received sentences that did not include supervision or confinement; (6) GAO identified 20 federal programs that provide grants to states and localities for juvenile law enforcement activities; (7) fifteen of the programs were in DOJ, two were in the Department of Education, and one each was in the Department of the Interior, the Department of the Treasury, and the Department of Health and Human Services; (8) none of the programs GAO identified was limited exclusively to juvenile law enforcement activities; (9) the remaining 13 programs had multiple purposes, such as adult juvenile crime prevention and law enforcement; (10) the federal programs provide grants for juvenile law enforcement activities using the definition of juvenile as established by state statute; (11) in the states and the District of Columbia, the maximum age of juvenile court jurisdiction is 15, 16, or 17; (12) also, DOJ officials told GAO that some federal programs use terms such as children or youths to define program eligibility; (13) for the most part, information on funding for juvenile law enforcement activities was not available for the 20 programs because states are not required to report the portions of grant funds they spend on law enforcement activities that are targeted directly toward juveniles; and (14) further, within the timeframe of GAO's review, it could not design methodologies that would allow it to estimate the portions of these programs' expenditures that serve juvenile law enforcement purposes.

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