Skip over navigation

Journal Issue: The Juvenile Court Volume 6 Number 3 Winter 1996

The Juvenile Court and Delinquency Cases
Howard N. Snyder

Summary

Growing public concern about the rise in violent juvenile crime is borne out by increases in the juvenile court's caseload, which rose 23% between 1989 and 1993. The number of cases involving person offenses increased by 52%. Despite the rise in person offenses, the majority of delinquency cases in juvenile court involve property offenses, and less than 10% of the caseload consists of violent offenses.

Almost all juveniles commit at least one delinquent act before turning 18, but most are never arrested. This article follows those youths who are arrested on the pathway through the juvenile justice system. Of all delinquency cases referred to juvenile court, approximately one quarter are dismissed or diverted for handling outside the court process. Another quarter of the cases are handled through informal court processes, while the remaining 51% of cases are formally processed through the juvenile court.

At all stages of the juvenile court process, there is an overrepresentation of black youths in relation to their representation in the population at large. In 1993, while only 15% of the juvenile population was black, black youths were involved in 28% of all arrests and 50% of all violent crime arrests. A meta-analysis of the literature on minority youths in the juvenile court found that racial and ethnic status influenced the decisions made about individual youths at every stage of the juvenile court process.

Juvenile offenders with four or more arrests are responsible for nearly two-thirds of all violent crimes and half of all property crimes referred to court. The author concludes that early intervention into the lives of these youths is necessary to address the increase in juvenile crime.