Data & Methods
Overview [back to top]
Each year, juvenile courts across the country voluntarily provide data to the National Juvenile Court Data Archive (Archive), a project maintained by the National Center for Juvenile Justice (NCJJ) with funds provided by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP). These data are used to develop national estimates of the delinquency and status offense cases handled by U.S. courts with juvenile jurisdiction and are the basis of the annual Juvenile Court Statistics (JCS) series. Data compiled and analyzed for the annual JCS report constitute the most detailed information on youth involved in the juvenile justice system and on the activities of U.S. juvenile courts.
The Juvenile Court Statistics report includes an appendix with State- and county-level caseload statistics describing the annual delinquency, status offense, and dependency cases handled by juvenile courts. NCJJ modified this part of the JCS report for presentation in this web resource. Users familiar with the JCS report series will find that Easy Access to State and County Juvenile Court Case Counts maintains a similar look to the JCS Appendix.
Table Organization [back to top]
Information on the courts' petitioned and nonpetitioned delinquency, status, and dependency caseloads is presented in Easy Access to State and County Juvenile Court Case Counts. The total population of each reporting jurisdiction, its population age 10 through the upper age of juvenile court jurisdiction, and its population 0 through the upper age of jurisdiction are also presented. Case rates (the number of cases per 1,000 youth at risk) are presented for each case type for the State/jurisdiction. Delinquency and status offense case rates are based on the 10 through upper age population, while rates for dependency cases are based on the 0 through upper age population.
Detailed table notes are included with each table. The notes associated with each State/jurisdiction identify the source of the data, the mode of transmission, and the characteristics of data reported. States that have indicated incomplete reporting also are noted.
The figures presented in each column of the table relate to the specific case type (i.e., petitioned and nonpetitioned delinquency, status offense and dependency caseloads). However, some jurisdictions were unable to provide statistics that distinguish delinquency and status offense cases from dependency matters or, at times, from other court activities. Such information is contained in the column labeled "All Reported Cases". By its nature, this column contains a heterogeneous mixture of case types and units of count. These variations are identified in the notes associated with each data presentation. Case rates are not calculated for the "All Reported Cases" column.
Caution must be taken when interpreting the case rates appearing at the bottom of each State table. State-level case rates are not estimates, and reflect only reported statistics. For example, suppose that half of California's counties reported statistics on nonpetitioned delinquency cases. The California nonpetitioned delinquency case rate would be based on the total number of nonpetitioned delinquency cases from reporting counties and the 10 through upper age population for those counties. Obviously, care should be taken when interpreting State rates based on less than complete reporting.
Finally, although the majority of the data presented in Easy Access to State and County Juvenile Court Case Counts are based on a specific calendar year, data from several reporting jurisdictions reflect cases processed during the State's fiscal year. The period of coverage is indicated in the table notes.
In all, with the range of possible definitions of the statistics presented in each table, it is imperative that users review all associated notes to insure proper interpretations of these figures.
Unit of Count [back to top]
The units of count for the court statistics presented in Easy Access to State and County Juvenile Court Case Counts vary across jurisdictions. Archive staff attempt to collect and summarize juvenile court workloads based on the number of "cases disposed." A case is defined as a youth processed by a juvenile court on a new referral regardless of the number of law violations contained in the referral. The fact that a case is disposed means that a definite action was taken as a result of the referral - e.g., a plan of treatment was selected or initiated. It does not mean that a case was closed or terminated in the sense that all contact between the court and the youth ceased. For example, a case is considered disposed when the court orders probation, not when a term of probation supervision is completed.
Many States/jurisdictions report their data using "cases disposed" as the unit of count. Other States/jurisdictions report the number of cases filed, children disposed, petitions filed, hearings, juvenile arraignments, or charges as the unit of count. The unit of count reported by the State/jurisdiction is included in the notes accompanying its table. As such, the unit of count for each jurisdiction should be reviewed before any attempt is made to compare statistics either across or within jurisdictions.
Data Source [back to top]
Easy Access to State and County Juvenile Court Cases uses data provided to the Archive by State and county agencies responsible for collecting and/or disseminating information on the processing of youth in juvenile courts. The data are collected in two forms: court-level aggregate statistics and detailed case-level data. Court-level aggregate statistics either are abstracted from the annual reports of State and local courts or are contributed directly to the Archive. Court-level statistics typically provide counts of the delinquency, status offense, and dependency cases handled by courts in a defined time period (calendar or fiscal year).
Case-level data are usually generated by automated client-tracking systems or case-reporting systems managed by juvenile courts or other juvenile justice agencies. These systems provide detailed data on the characteristics of each delinquency and status offense case handled by courts, generally including the age, sex, and race of the youth referred; the date and source of referral; the offenses charged; detention; petitioning; and the date and type of disposition.