Trends in Juvenile Justice State Legislation 2001-2011


Trends in Juvenile Justice Report Cover

A rise in serious juvenile crime in the late 1980s and early 1990s led to state laws that moved away from the traditional emphasis on rehabilitation in the juvenile justice system toward tougher, more punitive treatment of youth, including adult han­dling.

During the past decade, juvenile crime rates have declined, and state legislatures are rebalancing approaches to juvenile crime and delinquency in order to identify methods that pro­duce better results for kids at lower cost. 

Today, there is more and better information available to policymakers on the causes of juvenile crime and what can be done to prevent it. This includes im­portant information about neurobiological and psychosocial factors and the effects these factors have on development and competency of adolescents.

The research has contributed to recent legislative trends to distin­guish juvenile from adult offenders, restore the jurisdiction of the juvenile court, and adopt sci­entific screening and assessment tools to structure decision-making and identify needs of juvenile of­fenders. Competency statutes and policies have be­come more research-based, and youth interventions are evidence-based across a range of programs and services. Other legislative actions have increased due process protections for juveniles, reformed de­tention and addressed racial disparities in juvenile justice systems.

Under a partnership with the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation in Chicago, Illinois, the following report, “Juvenile Justice Trends in State Legislation, 2001-2011,” was produced illustrating the trends in juvenile justice enactments over the past decade.  The report is a summary analysis of 2001-2011 juvenile justice legislation in all 50-states and describes the direction of state juvenile justice policy over this ten-year period.  It highlights significant pieces of legislation and catalogs the volume and variety of juvenile justice legislation enacted in states.  

Models for Change
NCSL has a long-standing partnership with the MacArthur Foundation, to inform and assist state legislatures on juvenile justice issues. Its Models for Change initiative is a 16-state juvenile justice system reform initiative.  Now in its 7th year, Models for Change is accelerating movement toward a more effective, fair and developmentally sound juvenile justice system by creating successful and replicable models that improve outcomes for youth, use resources wisely, and protect community safety.