If you’re not already aware, the Division of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention releases an annual report covering its activities and statistics from the past year. This year’s report contains a wealth of helpful information. In this post, I’d like to share some data and thoughts about how defenders may use this information in their practice. All graphics come from the report.
Intake and Complaints
The first graphic shows that 60% of all complaints are approved for court. While this may seem like a reasonable number, it shouldn’t prevent you from requesting a continuance or some other tool to prevent adjudication. The further your client goes into to the system, the more likely they’ll recidivate in the future. Also, note the recent uptick in the delinquency rate. However, note that in the past decade, the numbers and rate of cases has dropped steadily. This longer view of the trend of offending may be used to combat the narrative of the worsening of juvenile crime.
Top Juvenile Offenses
Like the point made above, these charts indicate that most juvenile offenses are misdemeanors and low-level felonies. None of the felonies listed in the “top ten” are more serious than a Class H felony. Again, sometimes our role in the court is to combat the narrative of fear about our clients.
School Based Offenses
This graphic illustrates what is possibly a shift in school-based complaints filed. For over a decade, school-based complaints comprised 40 to 45% of all offenses filed. That number predictably dipped in 2020 and 201 during the pandemic. But notice that in 2022, when most students were attending school in person, the number of school-based complaints rose to only 34%. It is early to tell if this is an ongoing trend, but it may mean that minor offenses emanating from school may be on the decline.
Youth In Detention
Detention advocacy is one of the hardest parts of youth defense practice. Here you can see the direct impact of Raise the Age – older youth are the bulk of the population being held in secure custody, and largely the transferred population. Defenders should be extra vigilant in working to release their clients from secure custody, but also maintaining contact with their long-term detained clients to keep them informed and buttress the attorney-client relationship to provide the strongest level of representation.
Unfortunately, the disparities we see in youth of color at major points in the juvenile are a continuing trend, specifically:
· Black youth twice as likely as white youth to have a complaint filed.
· Black youth over four times as likely as white youth to be detained.
· Black youth over three times as likely as white youth to be committed to YDC.
Defenders can bring their skills of advocacy to combat these trends. At the first setting of the case, look for ways the petition can be dismissed before any further involvement, through the continuances or diversions from adjudication. Pressure the court to release your client from detention, with or without conditions. Be creative in devising alternatives that will provide your client freedom but can also keep the public safe. Lastly, commitment should be the absolute last resort from the court. Try to identify alternatives, ask that commitment be stayed, or request a community commitment.
⬇ To read the full report click here or download the file below ⬇