An Urgent Call to Action
In the 1990's, pervasive problems with juvenile violence threaten the safety and security of communities across the country, and projections for the future are cause for nationwide alarm. Demographic experts predict that juvenile arrests for violent crimes will more than double by the year 2010,1 given population growth projections and trends in juvenile arrests over the past decade. (See figure 1.) It is clear that our children -- and the juvenile justice system -- need immediate help.
There is, however, reason for hope. Projections and trends are not destiny. We can successfully intervene to reverse these trends based on identified positive and negative characteristics -- protective and risk factors -- that are present or lacking in communities, families, schools, peer groups, and individuals. These factors either equip a child with the capacity to become a healthy, productive individual or expose that child to potential involvement in crime and violence. Of equal importance, communities are learning that they can make dramatic changes in delinquency levels by taking steps that successfully reduce the risk factors and strengthen the protective factors in children's lives.
In partnership with State and Federal agencies, communities are beginning to mobilize to combat juvenile delinquency through prevention, early intervention, and community-building strategies that address local needs. They are reducing serious and violent juvenile delinquency by using multi-agency, coordinated approaches and innovative programs and services in the juvenile justice system.
Figure 1: Juvenile population and arrest rates Juvenile population growth foreshadows increases in violent crimes by juveniles
Data Source: Analysis based on UCR arrest data and Census Bureau population estimates and projections.
Source: Snyder, H., M. Sickmund, and E. Poe-Yamagata. 1996 (February). Juvenile Offenders and Victims: 1996 Update on Violence. Washington, D.C.: Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, U.S. Department of Justice.
In support of these efforts, the Coordinating Council on Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention offers The National Juvenile Justice Action Plan. This plan for local, State, and Federal action is an eight-point statement of objectives and strategies that are designed to strengthen State and local initiatives to reduce juvenile violence and to increase the capacity of the juvenile justice system to respond to, and prevent, delinquency.
A Cooperative Effort
To combat juvenile violence, all citizens must recognize that they can make a difference in their communities, both through individual action and by joining with others in comprehensive, collaborative initiatives. While the Action Plan recognizes the critical Federal role of providing support and a national perspective, State, local, and individual commitment is the key ingredient if community efforts are to succeed. All individuals can play crucial roles in protecting and nurturing children in their communities.
Efforts to reduce juvenile violence can be as basic as parents setting clear expectations and standards for children's behavior or as far-reaching as a local government forming an anti-violence task force or implementing community oriented policing. Another effective strategy involves setting up local resource centers that offer positive educational, social, and cultural activities to provide youth with alternatives to crime. Many national organizations are committed to supporting the implementation of community-based initiatives to reduce juvenile violence and can provide information about local projects across the country. (National organizations that provide technical assistance are listed in Appendix C.)
The annotated bibliography (Appendix F) lists a range of publications that address juvenile violence. The Comprehensive Strategy for Serious, Violent, and Chronic Juvenile Offenders2 and its companion piece, the Guide for Implementing the Comprehensive Strategy for Serious, Violent, and Chronic Juvenile Offenders,3 published in 1995 by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), are valuable resources for community planning and action. The Action Plan supports implementation of the Comprehensive Strategy and the Guide's framework for establishing a continuum of programs and services designed to reverse the increasing trends of juvenile violence and delinquency.
To support implementation of State, local, and community activities, the Action Plan provides:
- A statement of resources that Federal member agencies of the Coordinating Council will commit to the eight priority objectives, including training and technical assistance, financial assistance, research, legislation, evaluation, and information dissemination.
- A summary of research that supports the plan's objectives, which State and local communities can use to guide their policy, planning, and communication activities.
- Model program examples that can be adapted to meet local needs.
- A list of technical assistance providers, with addresses and phone numbers, and an annotated bibliography.
Objectives of The National Juvenile Justice Action Plan
The Action Plan is a blueprint for community action designed to address and reduce the impact of juvenile violence and delinquency. It is founded on the premise that no single individual, organization, or agency can address the causes of juvenile violence in isolation. Working together, however, State and local leaders, representatives of public and private groups, and individual community members -- including youth -- can base their actions on what works and direct their energies to meeting the eight Action Plan objectives. The following objectives, all of equal importance, can be achieved by communities that address public safety concerns while making a commitment to services for children:Objective 1. Provide immediate intervention and appropriate sanctions and treatment for delinquent juveniles.
Objective 2. Prosecute certain serious, violent, and chronic juvenile offenders in criminal court.4
Objective 3. Reduce youth involvement with guns, drugs, and gangs.
Objective 4. Provide opportunities for children and youth.
Objective 5. Break the cycle of violence by addressing youth victimization, abuse, and neglect.
Objective 6. Strengthen and mobilize communities.
Objective 7. Support the development of innovative approaches to research and evaluation.
Objective 8. Implement an aggressive public outreach campaign on effective strategies to combat juvenile violence.
These objectives are supported by research underscoring their importance for strengthening the juvenile justice system and addressing the crisis of youth violence. Each section of the Action Plan addresses one of these objectives and includes a set of actions based on research, evaluated programs, and successful strategies.
A Safer Tomorrow Through Action Today
The sobering projections about the future of juvenile violence underscore the need for strong, immediate, well-planned, and decisive action to intervene early with efforts to prevent younger children from following in the self-destructive footsteps of many of their older brothers and sisters. At the same time, it is imperative that we effectively respond to that small percentage of juvenile offenders who repeatedly victimize the community and who account for the vast majority of serious and violent delinquent acts. We must take immediate steps to improve the capacity of the juvenile justice system to respond to juvenile offenders. If we fail to respond to their needs, the potential costs to society in human lives and productivity will be an onerous and tragic burden to future generations.
In taking action, States and localities have a variety of choices that are both critical and difficult. Funds must be allocated for juvenile justice program options, ranging from secure facilities to day treatment, probation placements, and improvements in research and data collection and dissemination of information about juvenile violence issues. Also, funding must be made available for a broad spectrum of effective youth development and delinquency prevention programs, including afterschool programs, childcare for low-income working families, community policing efforts, summer recreation and job opportunities for low-income youth, and Head Start.
In addition to funding programs, there are many actions that States and local communities can take that build on their commitment to the safety, health, development, and well-being of children. By starting new initiatives, implementing the objectives, accessing the resources, and engaging in the activities of the Action Plan, leaders at the Federal, State, and local levels working together can make a difference.
1. Snyder, H., M. Sickmund, and E. Poe-Yamagata. 1996 (February). Juvenile Offenders and Victims: 1996 Update on Violence. Washington, D.C.: Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, U.S. Department of Justice.
2. Wilson, J.J., and J.C. Howell. 1993. Comprehensive Strategy for Serious, Violent, and Chronic Juvenile Offenders. Program Summary. Washington, D.C.: Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, U.S. Department of Justice.
3. Howell, J.C., ed. 1995 (May). Guide for Implementing the Comprehensive Strategy for Serious, Violent, and Chronic Juvenile Offenders. Washington, D.C.: Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, U.S. Department of Justice.
4. The classification of juveniles as serious, violent, and chronic offenders is an important legal distinction. In some jurisdictions, identification of a juvenile as a serious, violent, and chronic offender determines how the juvenile is processed in the system -- for example, whether a juvenile is subject to established minimum periods of secure confinement or subject to criminal court jurisdiction. Additionally, the consequences of being placed in one of these categories are critical to the allocation of scarce treatment resources. Generally, such determinations are made at the State and local levels.
Definitions used in different research and statistics-gathering efforts often vary. OJJDP has developed the following definitions of serious, violent, and chronic juvenile offenders for purposes of general guidance.
- Juvenile refers to a person under the age established by a State to determine when an individual is no longer subject to original juvenile court jurisdiction for (any) criminal misconduct. While this upper age is 17 in a majority of jurisdictions, it ranges from 15 to 17 years of age.
- Serious juvenile offenders are those adjudicated delinquent for committing any felony offense, including larceny or theft, burglary or breaking and entering, extortion, arson, and drug trafficking or other controlled dangerous substance violation.
- Violent juvenile offenders are those serious juvenile offenders adjudicated delinquent for one of the following felony offenses homicide, rape or other felony sex offense, mayhem, kidnaping, robbery, or aggravated assault.
- Chronic juvenile offenders are juveniles adjudicated delinquent for committing three or more delinquent offenses.
These definitions include juveniles convicted in criminal court for particular offense types.
Contents | Foreword | Acknowledgments | Introduction | Summary
Figures | Objectives | Conclusion | Appendixes