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Juveniles in Court
Delinquency Cases
Q: Has there been an increase in the number of delinquency cases ordered to formal probation or residential placement?
A: Nearly all the growth in the number of adjudicated delinquency cases in which the youth was placed on formal probation or ordered to a residential facility took place between 1985 and 1997.
Note: Cases are categorized according to their most severe disposition.

It is important to note that 2020 was the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, which may have impacted policies, procedures, and data collection activities regarding referrals to and processing of youth by juvenile courts. Additionally, stay-at-home orders and school closures likely impacted the volume and type of law-violating behavior by youth referred to juvenile court in 2020.

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  • In dispositional hearings, juvenile court judges must determine the most appropriate sanction for delinquent youth. Disposition options include commitment to an institution or another residential facility; probation; or a variety of other dispositions, such as referral to an outside agency or treatment program, community service, fines, or restitution. Very often the court imposes some combination of these sanctions.
  • The number of adjudicated delinquency cases resulting in residential placement increased 65% between 1985 and 1997 and then fell 80% through 2020. In 2020, an estimated 35,900 adjudicated delinquency cases were ordered to residential placement 27% of all adjudicated delinquency cases.
  • The number of adjudicated delinquency cases resulting in formal probation nearly doubled between 1985 and 1997, then decreased 77% through 2020. In 2020, formal probation was the most restrictive disposition ordered in 88,700 delinquency cases 66% of all adjudicated delinquency cases.
  • The number of adjudicated delinquency cases receiving other court ordered sanctions nearly doubled between 1985 and 1997, and then decreased 84% by 2020. In 2020, other sanctions, such as community service and restitution, were imposed in 9,500 adjudicated delinquency cases 7% of all adjudicated delinquency cases.

Internet citation: OJJDP Statistical Briefing Book. Online. Available: https://www.ojjdp.gov/ojstatbb/court/qa06501.asp?qaDate=2020. Released on January 10, 2023.

Adapted from Easy Access to Juvenile Court Statistics. Available on-line at: https://www.ojjdp.gov/ojstatbb/ezajcs/.

Data Source: National Juvenile Court Data Archive. National Center for Juvenile Justice. Pittsburgh, PA.


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