Fast Facts

  • Diversionary approaches may be appropriate for young people who commit low-level offences, given that some will desist from crime without intervention and [that] drawing these young people into the formal youth justice system may increase their offending. [1]
  • Children who experience domestic violence are six times more likely to commit suicide, 50% more likely to abuse alcohol or drugs, and 74% more likely to commit a violent crime. [2]
  • As adolescents age, their risk of committing a crime or delinquent act lessens. Even high risk adolescent behavior is not necessarily indicative of future adult behavior. The prevalence of offending peaks in the teenage years (15-19) and then declines in the early 1920s. [3]
  • In just five years--from 2011 to 2016--the number of states that ban death-in-prison sentences for children has more than tripled. In 2011, only five states did not permit children to be sentenced to life without parole. Remarkably, between 2013 and 2016, three states per year have eliminated life without-parole as a sentencing option for children. Seventeen states now ban the sentence. [4]
  • Given recent declines in the arrest rates of children under 12, this report predicts an ongoing decline in the violent felony arrest rate of youth ages 12-17 through 2020. [5]
  • Early childhood and K–12 settings that partner with educational, employment and job-training programs can foster family financial stability. [6]
  • Pennsylvania has implemented effective, data-driven reforms in several jurisdictions to reduce racial and ethnic disparities at many points in the juvenile justice system. [7]
  • Youth arrest rates continue to drop, and the number of youth violent crime arrests in 2010 was lower than in any of the prior 30 years. [8]
  • The rate of youth in confinement dropped 41 percent between 2001 and 2011. [9]
  • Currently 49 states have anti-bullying laws, and there is considerable variation in the content of these laws. [10]
  • Most studies indicate that prevalence of offending peaks in the teenage years (15-19) and then declines in the early 20s. [11]
  • Overall, juvenile arrests in 2011 were down 11 percent from 2010 and down 31 percent since 2002. [12]
  • As of December 2013, juvenile arrests for violent crimes fell 29% in the past 5 years. [13]
  • As of December 2013, juvenile property crime arrests declined for the third straight year. [14]
  • Females accounted for 29% of juvenile arrests in 2011. [15]
  • More than three quarters (76 percent) of at-risk young adults who had a mentor aspire to enroll in and graduate from college versus half (56 percent) of at-risk young adults who had no mentor. [16]
  • At-risk young adults with a mentor are more likely to report participating regularly in sports or extracurricular activities (67 percent of at-risk youth with mentors compared to 37 percent of those without them). [17]
  • Young people with longer mentoring relationships report better outcomes than youth with shorter mentoring relationships in areas such as higher sports participation, leadership positions, and regular volunteering. [18]
  • In 2010, one in three local law enforcement agencies reported youth gang problems in their jurisdiction. [19]
  • In a 2010 national survey, 45 percent of high school students and 35 percent of middle-schoolers said that there were gangs — or students who considered themselves part of a gang — in their school. [20]
  • Appropriate monitoring and instruction tends to lead to a healthier connection and bond between adults and youth, which can serve to buffer against unhealthy peer relationships. [21]
  • Many girls are low-level and status offenders, and even the most serious female offenders tend to desist within a year or two. [22]
  • Both research and practice has shown that responding to kids at home and in their communities is far more cost-effective, developmentally appropriate, and ethical than incarceration when a young person poses no risk to public safety. [23]
  • In Colorado, the overall number of juvenile arrests has been declining since 1991, and is about 70 percent lower today than it was in the early 1990s. [24]
  • There is evidence that a positive school climate can lower overall levels of violence in school and have a beneficial effect on the behavior of young people outside of school. [25]
  • A recent study provided evidence that positive behavioral support in the classroom is associated with greater order and discipline, fairness, and productive student-teacher relationships. [26]
  • The state has Colorado has seen a 27 percent drop in expulsions and a 10 percent drop in suspensions since enacting legislation in 2012 to reduce harsh disciplinary practices in schools and increase training for school resource officers. [27]
  • The number of students in the Boston public school system who were suspended or expelled dropped from 743 to 120 in just two years, after implementing restorative justice practices as alternatives to suspension and expulsion in 2010. [28]
  • Young people under the age of eighteen are three times more likely to falsely confess than adults. [29]
  • Results of a 2013 study suggest that conducting specialized training for those who interrogate youth, placing limits on lengthy and manipulative techniques, and exploring alternative procedures for questioning juvenile suspects are potential ways to reduce false confessions among youth. [30]
  • In 2011, over 62.9 million U.S. residents age 16 or older, or 26% of the population, had one or more contacts with police during the prior 12 months. [31]
  • There are now over 5,000 mentoring programs serving about 3 million youths throughout the U.S. [32]
  • For girls, a large jump in victimization and delinquency occurs between ages 11 and 12; for boys, the delinquent-victim group increases between ages 13 and 14. [33]
  • The parents of 1 in every 50 children in the United States are in prison, and over half of those parents are serving time for non-violent offenses. [34]
  • Overall, the juvenile offender custody population dropped 18% from 2008 to 2010. [35]
  • The first SRO program was instituted in 1953 in Flint, Michigan, and later spread to Fresno, California, in 1968. [36]
  • As SRO programs came to prominence in the early 2000s, juvenile arrests declined 17% between 2000 and 2009. [37]
  • Juvenile justice referrals for Baltimore City were down a total of 15.7% between 2008 and 2010, which was characteristic of Maryland as a whole, whose total decreased 15.9% in those years. [38]
  • Research has shown that there are specific protective factors that may make girls less likely to commit offenses, including support from a caring adult, succeeding and/or feeling connected to someone in school, and religiosity. [39]
  • In 2009, girls accounted for almost 50% of all status offense cases petitioned to the courts, as compared to 28% of all delinquency cases. [40]
  • From 2005 to 2010, three states (Maine, Virginia, and Pennsylvania), and one local jurisdiction (Multnomah County, Oregon) enacted laws to either permit or require that youth in the adult system be placed in juvenile facilities rather than adult facilities. [41]
  • Compared with trends since 1980, the arrest rate for violent youth crime reached a new low every year from 2009 through 2012. [42]
  • In a 2010 national survey, 45 percent of high school students and 35 percent of middle schoolers said that there were gangs — or students who considered themselves part of a gang — in their school. [43]
  • According to the most recent data released by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, the number of committed youth fell in 43 states between 2010 and 2011. [44]
  • According to a report on seasonal changes in youth employment, the number of employed youth 16 to 24 years old increased by 2.1 million to 19.7 million between April 2013 and July 2013. [45]
  • The national child victim rate decreased from 10.3 child victims per 1,000 children in the population in 2008 to 9.9 in 2011. [46]
  • Nationally, the number of reported gang-related homicides decreased from 2,020 in 2010 to 1,824 in 2011. [47]
  • Comprehensive early childhood programs and high-quality preschool can help improve school readiness among low-income children. [48]
  • One study estimates that 30% of shelter youth and 70% of street youth are victims of commercial sexual exploitation. [49]
  • The homicide rate for youth aged 10 to 24 years in the United States reached a 30-year low in 2010. [50]
  • A 2013 study found that a youth summer program comprised of mentoring, job training, and counseling components reduced violent crime arrests among at-risk youth in Chicago by 51%. [51]
  • Youths who are victims of bullying have a higher chance of developing agoraphobia, anxiety, and panic disorders. [52]
  • According to a 2013 study, incarcerated youth who were visited regularly by family members committed an average of four behavioral incidents per month, compared to six among those visited infrequently and 14 among those who were never visited. [53]
  • According to a 2013 study, the average grade point averages for youth who never had a visitor while incarcerated was 80.4, compared to 82 for those who had visits infrequently and 85 for youth who had frequent visits from family members. [54]
  • Nationally, over 33,000 Explorers (youth 14-20 years of age) and 8,425 adult volunteers participate in Law Enforcement Exploring. [55]
  • Studies have shown that youths kept in the juvenile justice system, as opposed to being charged as an adult, are less likely to commit another offense, especially a violent offense. [56]
  • The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) has analyzed over 8,000 attempted abductions since 2005, 72% of which involved a suspect driving a vehicle. [57]
  • Youth confinement peaked in 1995 nationwide, at 107,637 in confinement on a single day. As of February 2013, the number of youth confined has dropped by nearly 37,000 to 70,792. [58]
  • Since 1997, 44 states and the District of Columbia experienced a decline in the rate of young people confined, and several states cut their confinement rates in half or more. [59]
  • Being arrested in school doubles the chances that a child will drop out, even when controlling for other factors such as middle school grade point average. [60]
  • Research shows that the Connecticut School-Based Diversion Initiative, which links students to mental health resources, has reduced student arrests by 50–69 percent per school, has reduced in-school suspensions by 9 percent, and has reduced out-of-school suspensions by 8 percent. [61]
  • Research has shown that the 1.4 million children in grades 6-8 who benefit from after-school programs can show both true learning gains in the classroom and developmental gains that will help them in their transition to high school. [62]
  • Project STRIVE is a research endeavor using brief family-based therapeutic intervention that has been shown to reduce sexual risk behavior, drug use, and delinquent behaviors among homeless youth in Los Angeles and San Bernardino Counties. [63]
  • Delinquency arrests for school-related offenses declined 50% and resulted in 48% fewer youths being arrested in Florida’s schools over the past eight years. [64]
  • Concerned adults can help adolescents maintain positive mental health by providing caring, supportive relationships, encouraging healthy behaviors, and teaching effective strategies for coping with stress. [65]
  • More youths become runaways or homeless at the age of 16 than at any other age (21%). [66]
  • Research by the Center for Prevention of School Violence indicates that the presence of School Resource Officers (SROs) in schools makes students, teachers, and staff feel safer and can be a positive deterrent to incidents and acts of violence. [67]
  • Universal, school-based prevention programs that teach skills such as emotional self-awareness and control, positive social skills, problem solving, conflict resolution, and teamwork can significantly lower rates of aggression and violent behavior. [68]
  • Parent- and family-based programs can improve family relations and lower the risk for violence by children especially when the programs are started early. [69]
  • Cyberbullying is most common among children ages 12 to 17, but it may also involve adults. Adults accused of harassing children or teens are generally referred to as cyberharassers or cyberstalkers. [70]
  • Community-based programs, including diversion programs, drug treatment, evening reporting centers, treatment clinics and family programs, have been shown to be less costly than detention or incarceration and to help youth stay out of trouble and to not re-offend. [71]
  • Youth commit only a small portion of the nation’s crime. For example, in 2009, 11% of violent crime clearances and 17% of the property crime clearances nationwide involved only youth. [72]
  • Early interventions that prevent high-risk youth from engaging in repeat criminal offenses can save the public nearly $5.7 million in costs over a lifetime. [73]
  • Scientific evidence indicates that the "executive functions" of the brain that control impulses, calm emotions, provide an understanding of the consequences of behavior and allow reasoned, logical and rational decision making processes do not fully develop until the early twenties. [74]
  • Adolescents lack mature capacity for self-regulation in emotionally charged contexts, relative to adults and children. [75]
  • Research has shown that strong bonds between an adolescent and his or her parents can reduce the likelihood of problem behaviors and substance use. [76]
  • Evaluations show that youth who participate in relationships with adult mentors report improvements in self-efficacy and social competence as well as measurable reductions in problem behavior. [77]
  • Juveniles were involved in 1 in 11 arrests for murder in 2009, 1 in 5 arrests for a weapons violation, and about 1 in 4 arrests for robbery, burglary, larceny-theft, and motor vehicle theft. [78]
  • Overall, juveniles are most likely to commit a crime with a firearm between 7 p.m. and 11 p.m. [79]
  • In 2009, courts with juvenile jurisdiction disposed nearly 1.5 million delinquency cases. [80]
  • From 1980 to 2008, a quarter of the victims (24%) of gang-related homicides were under age 18. [81]
  • One quarter (25%) of detention centers are at or over their capacity, which impairs the ability of the facility to properly care for the youth. [82]
  • Known juvenile offenders were involved in at least 766 murders in the U.S. in 2010, representing about 8% of all known murder offenders. [83]
  • Homicide offending increases with the age of the juvenile offender; in 2010, about 9% of known juvenile homicide offenders were under age 15, while 76% were ages 16 or 17. [84]
  • In 2010, of the nearly 100,000 youth under the age of 18 who were serving time in a juvenile residential placement facility, 26 percent had been convicted of property crimes only, such as burglary, arson, or theft. [85]
  • In 2008, 69% of high school graduates enrolled in a 2-year or 4-year college immediately after high school graduation, an increase from 49% in 1980. [86]
  • Referral to a school-based mental health center or to counseling reduces absenteeism rates by 50% and tardiness rates by 25%. [87]
  • According to the Census of Juveniles in Residential Placement (CJRP), from 1997 to 2010, the number of committed youth in custody on the census day dropped by approximately 36%, from 75,400 to 48,400. [88]
  • Justice Department research shows that school-level interventions reduce dating violence by up to 50%. [89]
  • Fewer than half of serious violent crimes by juveniles are reported to law enforcement. This number has not changed significantly in 20 years. [90]
  • In 2008, juvenile courts waived an esti­mated 8,900 delinquency cases to adult court, 35% fewer cases than in 1994 but 13% more than in 2001. [91]
  • Work-based learning during the school years leads to better post school employment outcomes. [92]
  • On any given day, there are 10,000 youth in adult prisons and adult jails. [93]
  • Violent crimes by family members against juveniles were most frequent in the hours between 3 and 7 p.m. [94]
  • The number of delinquency cases processed by juvenile courts increased 43% between 1985 and 2008. [95]
  • While only an estimated 5% of the U.S. population has ever joined a gang, gang membership has reached 14 to 30% of the population in many urban areas. [96]
  • Juvenile violent crime is at its lowest level since 1987, and fell 30% between 1994 and 1998. [97]
  • A 1996 Florida study found that youth transferred to adult prisons had approximately a 30% higher recidivism rate than youth who stayed in the juvenile system. [98]
  • 28% of male victims of rape were first raped when they were 10 years old or younger. [99]
  • Bullying is associated with increases in suicide risk in young people. [100]
  • According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the number of school resource officers increased 38% between 1997 and 2007. [101]
  • Juvenile arrests for violent offenses declined 10% between 2008 and 2009, and overall juvenile arrests fell 9% during that same period. [102]
  • More than one-third of women who were raped as minors were also raped as adults compared to 14% of women without an early rape history. [103]
  • After a period of substantial growth through the 1990s, the juvenile arrest rate for drug abuse violations generally declined after 1997. [104]
  • Juveniles were involved as victims or offenders in 38% of all violent crimes in which the victim could estimate the age of the offender(s). [105]
  • Only 5% of youth attribute their volunteer activities to a school requirement. [106]
  • Juveniles were involved in 1 in 10 arrests for murder in 2008, and about 1 in 4 arrests for robbery, burglary, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft, and weapons violations. [107]
  • Today, there are over 400 PAL Member Chapters in law enforcement agencies servicing over 700 cities and 1,700 facilities throughout the United States, including the U.S. Virgin Islands, serving more than two million youth, ages 5 to 18. [108]
  • The Bureau of Justice Statistics survey of Police Contacts indicates shows that approximately 4 to 5 million youth aged 16, 17, 18 and 19 have face-to-face interactions with police annually. [109]
  • High school students are more likely to volunteer than junior high school students, 58 percent to 48 percent. [110]
  • 61% of public high schools using random police dog sniff-searches and 11% of public school students pass through metal detectors at schools. [111]
  • The after school hours are the peak time for juvenile crime and experimentation with drugs, alcohol, cigarettes and sex. [112]
  • Violent crime in schools has declined dramatically since 1994, the annual rate of serious violent crime in 2007 (40 per 1,000 students) was less than half of the rate in 1994. [113]
  • Juveniles accounted for 16% of all violent crime arrests and 26% of all property crime arrests in 2008. [114]
  • Less than 1% of all homicides and suicides among school-age youth occur on school grounds, on the way to or from school, or on the way to or from school-sponsored events. [115]
  • Over 78% of school-based police officers reported they had taken a weapon from a student on school property in the past year. [116]
  • Programs like 'Scared Straight' are likely to have a harmful effect and increase delinquency relative to doing nothing at all to the same youths. [117]
  • There are currently more than 4,600 Career Exploring Posts across the country. [118]
  • Researchers at the Campbell Collaboration, which analyzed results from nine scared straight programs and found that participants were up to 28% more likely to offend in the future. [119]
  • Law enforcement agencies nationally made an estimated 1,713 arrests for Internet-related crimes involving the possession of child pornography during the 12 months beginning July 1, 2000. [120]
  • By 2004, girls accounted for 30% of all juvenile arrests. [121]
  • People who are bullied are more likely to retaliate through extremely violent measures. In 12 of 15 school shooting cases in the 1990s, the shooters had a history of being bullied. [122]
  • Youth between the ages of 12-18 contribute more than 1.3 billion hours of community service each year. [123]
  • In 2009, 19.9% of youth in grades 9-12 reported being bullied on school property in the 12 months preceding the survey; the prevalence was higher among females (21.2%) than males (18.7%). [124]
  • Diversionary approaches may be appropriate for young people who commit low-level offences, given that some will desist from crime without intervention and [that] drawing these young people into the formal youth justice system may increase their offending. [125]