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America's Children in Brief: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2018

Residential Placement of Juveniles

The juvenile justice system is intended to protect public safety, hold juvenile offenders accountable, and provide services that address the needs of youth and their families. Research shows that youth involved in the juvenile justice system, particularly those held in out-of-home placements, are more likely to have specific mental health36, 37 and educational needs38 and more likely to have been exposed to violence and to have experienced trauma39, 40 than youth in the general population. Research also shows that formally processing youth in the juvenile justice system41 and placement of youth in secure facilities42 can have negative effects on their outcomes without improvements to public safety. Monitoring trends in and examining the demographics of juveniles in residential placement and the types of offenses associated with their placement provides an indicator of the size, composition, and legal attributes of this important population of children and how these characteristics are changing over time.

The residential placement rate is the number of juvenile offenders held in secure and nonsecure residential facilities per 100,000 youth in the general population ages 10 through the upper age at which offenders fall under original jurisdiction of the juvenile courts in each state in the given year.43 When considering trends, this rate provides a more comparable measurement across time because it helps to control for population growth, demographic changes, and variation in jurisdictional age boundaries for juvenile court. However, trends may reflect a combination of factors, including, but not limited to, fewer juvenile arrests, fewer youth processed through the juvenile courts, and shifts in policy and practice, such as greater opportunities for diversion from juvenile courts and the increased use of alternatives to confinement.44, 45

Figure 9: Residential placement rate (number of juvenile offenders in placement per 100,000 juveniles) by sex, selected years 1997–2015
Residential placement rate (number of juvenile offenders in placement per 100,000 juveniles) by sex, selected years 1997–2015

NOTE: Residential placement rate calculated per 100,000 persons age 10 through the upper age at which offenders were under original jurisdiction of the juvenile courts in each state in the given year.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Census of Juveniles in Residential Placement.

  • The overall residential placement rate fell from 356 per 100,000 juveniles in 1997 to 152 per 100,000 in 2015.
  • Between 1997 and 2015, residential placement rates declined for both males (from 599 to 253 per 100,000) and females (from 99 to 47 per 100,000) to their lowest recorded levels.
  • The residential placement rate was much higher for males than for females. In 2015, the residential placement rate for males (253 per 100,000) was five times the rate for females (47 per 100,000).

Figure 10: Residential placement rate (number of juvenile offenders in placement per 100,000 juveniles) by race and Hispanic origin, selected years 1997–2015
Residential placement rate (number of juvenile offenders in placement per 100,000 juveniles) by race and Hispanic origin, selected years 1997–2015

NOTE: The abbreviation NH refers to non-Hispanic origin. Residential placement rate calculated per 100,000 persons age 10 through the upper age at which offenders were under original jurisdiction of the juvenile courts in each state in the given year. In each survey, a single-question format (approved by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget) was used to collect information from juvenile residential facilities' administrative record systems about their residents' race and ethnicity. Data are reported in the following groups: White, Black or African American, Hispanic or Latino, American Indian or Alaska Native, Asian, Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander, or Two or More Races. The Hispanic category includes persons of Latin American or other Spanish culture or origin regardless of race. These persons are not included in the other race categories. For presentation purposes, the Asian race category includes Native Hawaiians and Other Pacific Islanders.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Census of Juveniles in Residential Placement.

  • Juvenile residential placement rates declined for each racial and ethnic group between 1997 and 2015. The rates fell for youth who were Asian, non-Hispanic (from 195 to 23 per 100,000); Hispanic (from 468 to 142 per 100,000); White, non-Hispanic (from 201 to 86 per 100,000); Black, non-Hispanic (from 968 to 433 per 100,000); and American Indian or Alaska Native, non-Hispanic (from 490 to 261 per 100,000).
  • In 2015, the residential placement rate for Black, non-Hispanic youth (433 per 100,000) was five times the rate for White, non-Hispanic youth (86 per 100,000).
  • In 2015, the residential placement rate for American Indian or Alaska Native, non-Hispanic youth (261 per 100,000) was three times that of White, non-Hispanic youth, and the rate for Hispanic youth (142 per 100,000) was nearly twice that of White, non-Hispanic youth.
  • Asian, non-Hispanic youth had the lowest residential placement rate (23 per 100,000).

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36 Wasserman, G. A., McReynolds, L. S., Schwalbe, C. S., Keating, J. M., & Jones, S. A. (2010). Psychiatric disorder, comorbidity, and suicidal behavior in juvenile justice youth. Criminal Justice and Behavior, 37(12), 1361–1376.

37 Teplin, L. A., Abram, K. M., McClelland, G. M., Dulcan, M. K., & Mericle, A. A. (2002). Psychiatric disorders in youth in juvenile detention. Archives of General Psychiatry, 59(12), 1133–1143.

38 Quinn, M. M., Rutherford, R. B., Leone, P. E., Osher, D. M., & Poirier, J. M. (2005). Youth with disabilities in juvenile corrections: A national survey. Exceptional Children, 71(3), 339–345.

39 Abram, K. M., Teplin, L. A., Charles, D. R., Longworth, S. L., McClelland, G. M., & Duclan, M. K. (2004). Posttraumatic stress disorder and trauma in youth in juvenile detention. Archives of General Psychiatry, 61(4), 403–410.

40 Ford, J. D., Hartman, J. K., Hawke, J., & Chapman, J. F. (2008). Traumatic victimization, posttraumatic stress disorder, suicidal ideation, and substance abuse risk among juvenile justice-involved youth. Journal of Child & Adolescent Trauma, 1(1), 75–92.

41 Petrosino, A., Turpin-Petrosino, C., & Guckenburg, S. (2010). Formal system processing of juveniles: Effects on delinquency. Campbell Systematic Reviews, 1. Retrieved from https://campbellcollaboration.org/library/formal-system-processing-of-juveniles-effects-on-delinquency.html.

42 Lipsey, M. W., & Cullen, F. T. (2007). The effectiveness of correctional rehabilitation: A review of systematic reviews. Annual Review of Law and Social Science, 3(1),297–320.

43 State statutes define which youth are under the original jurisdiction of the juvenile court. These definitions are based primarily on age criteria. Further information on these ages can be found at https://www.ojjdp.gov/ojstatbb/structure_process/qa04101.asp.

44 Hockenberry, S., & Puzzanchera, C. (2018). Juvenile court statistics 2015. Pittsburgh, PA: National Center for Juvenile Justice.

45 Hockenberry, S. (2018). Juveniles in residential placement, 2015. (National Report Series Bulletin – NCJ 250951). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice.