The newly released Youth and the Juvenile Justice System: 2022 National Report draws on numerous national data collections to address the research needs of professionals working with the juvenile justice system. The comprehensive publication comprises a series of briefing papers that explore:
- Youth population characteristics;
- Child maltreatment and youth victims;
- Offending by youth, as reflected in self and victim reports and in official records;
- The structure and workings of the juvenile justice system;
- Arrest records by law enforcement agencies;
- The progress of cases moving through the juvenile court system, including racial and ethnic disparities; and
- The youth population in correctional facilities.
The report bridges an existing research gap that has hindered youth justice professionals, policymakers, and educators. Reliable data on youth and the juvenile justice system are vital for them to serve system-involved youth effectively, to help them live productively and responsibly while holding them accountable and protecting the community. Data are also useful for practitioners who intervene in the lives of abused and neglected children. To date, much of the most-requested information on youth victims and offending by youth—and what happens when youth enter the juvenile justice system—has either been unavailable or too scattered to be useful.
Datapoints in the report concerning youth population characteristics include:
- In 2019, there were 73.1 million youth younger than 18 in the United States, representing 22 percent of the total population. The youth population declined 1 percent over the last decade but is projected to rise slowly through 2050.
- The proportion of white youth in the youth population dropped from 62 percent to 52 percent since 2000. That proportion is projected to fall to 39 percent by 2050.
- In 2019, the child poverty rate—a risk factor associated with delinquency—reached 14 percent, its lowest level since 1975.
The report also addresses victimization, another factor linked to negative outcomes for youth:
- Rates of serious violence and simple assault against youth ages 12–17 declined more than 80 percent since 1994.
- In 2019, nearly 20 percent of high school students said they had been bullied at school. Female students were more likely than males to be victims of bullying; they were also more likely to be victims of cyberbullying.
- According to a 2018 survey, 57 percent of youth ages 13–17 said they were either “very worried” or “somewhat worried” that a shooting might occur at their school.
Datapoints on offending by youth and their experiences in the juvenile justice system include:
- After peaking in 1993, the rate at which youth ages 12–17 committed serious violent crimes fell 87 percent through 2019. That year, the proportion of serious violent crime committed by youth ages 12–17 dropped to 9 percent.
- The number of youth arrests declined 68 percent from 2000 to 2019. Over that same period, arrests of male youth fell more sharply than for female youth. Females accounted for 31 percent of all youth arrests in 2019, up from 25 percent in 2000.
- Data provided by the nation’s juvenile courts indicates a significant drop in caseloads in recent decades. After peaking in 1997, the number of youth cases involving delinquency offense charges dropped 61 percent through 2019, falling to 722,600. The number of cases waived from juvenile to criminal court fell 75 percent from 1994 to 2019.
- From 2000 to 2019, the number of youth in residential placement declined 66 percent to 36,479.
Youth and the Juvenile Justice System: 2022 National Report is the fifth edition of a series first published by OJJDP in 1995, previously called Juvenile Offenders and Victims. The new edition includes data collected through 2019, prior to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. It was prepared by the National Center for Juvenile Justice, the research division of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, with funding from OJJDP. The National Institute of Justice awarded and managed the project.
The OJJDP Statistical Briefing Book, also developed by the National Center for Juvenile Justice, is another source of information on youth justice topics.