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8.1: Juvenile Detention

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    Many jails temporarily detain juveniles pending transfer to juvenile authorities.

    Recent research by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) shows that the trend in juvenile incarceration is toward lower numbers and a move toward local facilities. The juvenile offender population dropped 14% from 2010 to 2012, to the lowest number since 1975. In the March 2015 report, it was noted that for the first time since 2000, more offenders were in local facilities than were in state operated facilities.

    The degree of security present in juvenile facilities tends to vary widely between jurisdictions. An important measure of security used in OJJDP reports is locking youth in "sleeping rooms." Recent data indicates that public agencies are far more likely to lock juveniles in their sleeping quarters at least some of the time. A majority of state agencies (61%) reported engaging in this practice, while only a relatively small number (11%) of private agencies reported this practice. More than half of all facilities reported that they had one or more confinement features in addition to locking juveniles in their sleeping room (which usually happens at night). These security features usually consist of locked doors and gates designed to keep juveniles within the facility.

    Unlike adult jails, juvenile detention takes place in a variety of different environments. According to the OJJDP study, the most common type of facility were facilities that considered themselves to be "residential treatment centers," followed by those that considered themselves to be "detention centers." The classifications of "group home," "training school," "shelter," "wilderness camp," and "diagnostic center" are also used. Group homes and shelters tended to be privately owned, and detention centers tended to be state run facilities.


    Figure 8.1. Camp Erwin Owen, located in Kernville, California, was founded in 1938. This non-secure juvenile forestry camp houses 125 wards between the ages of 14 and 18 committed by the Juvenile Court. Camp Erwin Owen by Tabitha Raber is used under a CC BY 4.0 license.

    Federal Level

    Nearly two-thirds of all youth arrested are referred to a court with juvenile jurisdiction for further processing. Juvenile Offenders and Victims: A National Report, National Center for Juvenile Justice (August, 1995). Cases that progress through the system may result in adjudication and court-ordered supervision or out-of-home placement or may result in transfer for criminal (adult) prosecution. Id. Over the five-year period from 1988 through 1992, the juvenile courts saw a disproportional increase in violent offense cases and weapon law violations. Id.

    Many gang members and other violent offenders are under the age of eighteen when they commit criminal acts. Therefore, under 18 U.S.C.A. § 5031, these offenders are classified as "juveniles" for purposes of federal prosecution. Federal crimes committed by the juveniles which would be crimes if committed by an adult or violations of 18 U.S.C.A. § 922(x) are classified as acts of "juvenile delinquency." Gang members are treated as adults for federal criminal prosecutions if they have attained their eighteenth birthday when they commit federal crimes.

    At common law, one accused of a crime was treated essentially the same whether he was an infant or an adult. It was presumed that a person under the age of seven could not entertain criminal intent and thus was incapable of committing a crime. [Allen v. United States, 150 U.S. 551, 14 S. Ct. 196, 37 L. Ed. 1179 (1893).] One between the ages of seven and fourteen was presumed incapable of entertaining criminal intent but such presumption was rebuttable. Id. A person fourteen years of age and older was prima facie capable of committing crime. Id.

    Prior to 1938, there was no federal legislation providing for special treatment for juveniles. In 1938, the Federal Juvenile Delinquency Act was passed with the essential purpose of keeping juveniles apart from adult criminals. The original legislation provided juveniles with certain important rights including the right not to be sentenced to a term beyond the age of twenty-one. This early law also provided that an individual could be prosecuted as a juvenile delinquent only if the Attorney General in his discretion so directed. The 1938 Act gave the Attorney General the option to proceed against juvenile offenders as adults or as delinquents except with regard to those allegedly committing offenses punishable by death or life imprisonment. The Juvenile Delinquency Act was amended in 1948, with few substantive changes.

    In 1974, Congress adopted the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (hereinafter referred to as "the Act"). Its stated purpose was "to provide basic procedural rights for juveniles who came under federal jurisdiction and to bring federal procedures up to the standards set by various model acts, many state codes and court decisions". (S. Rep. No. 1011, 93 Cong., 2d Sess., reprinted in 1974 U.S.C.C.A.N. 5283, 5284.) The purpose of the Act is to remove juveniles from the ordinary criminal process to avoid the stigma of a prior criminal conviction and to encourage treatment and rehabilitation. [United States v. One Juvenile Male, 40 F.3d 841, 844 (6th Cir. 1994).] This purpose, however, must be balanced against the need to protect the public from violent offenders. Id. The intent of federal laws concerning juveniles are to help ensure that state and local authorities would deal with juvenile offenders whenever possible, keeping juveniles away from the less appropriate federal channels since Congress' desire to channel juveniles into state and local treatment programs is clearly intended in the legislative history of 18 U.S.C.A. § 5032. [United States v. Juvenile Male, 864 F. 2d 641, 644 (9th Cir. 1988).] Referral to the state courts should always be observed except in the most severe of cases. [United States v. Juvenile, 599 F. Supp. 1126, 1130 (D. Or. 1984).]

    Title 21, United States Code, Section 860, provides enhanced criminal penalties for those who illegally distribute, possess with intent to distribute, or manufacture a controlled substance in or on, or within 1,000 feet of, the real property comprising a public or private elementary, vocational, or secondary school or a public or private college, junior college, or university, or a playground, or housing facility owned by a public housing authority, or within 100 feet of a public or private youth center, public swimming pool, or video arcade facility. The statute also provides a mandatory minimum imprisonment term of not less than one year for violators. [21 U.S.C.A. § 860(a) (West Supp. 1995).] There are additional enhancements for repeat offenders. [21 U.S.C.A. § 860(b) (West Supp. 1995).]

    It is a federal offense to possess a firearm in a school zone. 18 U.S.C.A. § 922(g) (West Supp. 1995). However, the Supreme Court ruled the Gun-Free School Zone Act was unconstitutional as exceeding Congress' commerce clause authority in [United States v. Lopez, U.S. , 115 S.Ct. 1624, L. Ed.2d (1995).] Prior to this decision, Congress amended Section 922(g) by expressly stating in the statute the national need to regulate firearms around schools and its nexus to commerce. [18 U.S.C.A. § 922(g)(1) (West Supp. 1995).] Whether this change will accommodate the ruling made the basis for the Lopez decision is yet to be finally determined.

    8.1: Juvenile Detention is shared under a CC BY 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by LibreTexts.

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