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Law enforcement agencies refer approximately two-thirds of all arrested youth to a court with juvenile jurisdiction for further processing. As with law enforcement, the court may decide to divert some juveniles away from the formal justice system to other agencies for service. Prosecutors may file some juvenile cases directly to criminal (adult) court. The net result is that juvenile courts formally process more than 1 million delinquency and status offense cases annually. Juvenile courts adjudicate these cases and may order probation or residential placement or they may waive jurisdiction and transfer certain cases from juvenile court to criminal court. While their cases are being processed, juveniles may be held in secure detention.
This chapter quantifies the flow of cases through the juvenile court system. It documents the nature of, and trends in, cases received and the court's response, and examines gender and race differences. (Chapter 4 on juvenile justice system structure and process describes the juvenile court process in general, the history of juvenile courts in the U.S., and state variations in current laws. Chapter 2 on victims discusses the handling of child maltreatment matters.) The chapter also discusses the measurement of racial disproportionality in the juvenile justice system-i.e., disproportionate minority contact, or DMC-and notes declines in certain DMC indicators since 1992.
The information presented in this chapter is drawn from the National Juvenile Court Data Archive, which is funded by OJJDP, and the Archive's primary publication, Juvenile Court Statistics.