CYFD’s Special Programs Unit monitors law enforcement to ensure statutory compliance to the federal Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) core requirements of deinstitutionalization of status offenders, addressing racial and ethnic disparities, sight and sound separation of adults and juveniles, and removal of juveniles from adult jails and lockups.
On December 13, 2018, Congress passed H.R. 6964, the Juvenile Justice Reform Act of 2018, with broad bipartisan support. The Act updated the four OJJDP core requirements as highlighted below:
Deinstitutionalization of Status Offenders (DSO): Status offenses are offenses that are only crimes if committed by children, such as skipping school, running away, breaking curfew, and possession or use of alcohol. Under the JJDPA, status offenders may not be held in secure detention or confinement. Instead, these children are to receive community-based services, such as day treatment or residential home treatment, counseling, mentoring, alternative education and job development support.
JJRA of 2018 Changes to DSO: Youth who are found in violation of a valid court order may be held in detention, for no longer than seven days, if the court finds that such detention is necessary and enters an order containing the following: 1) identifies the valid court order that has been violated; 2) specifies the factual basis for determining that there is reasonable cause to believe that the status offender has violated such order; 3) includes findings of fact to support a determination that there is no appropriate less restrictive alternative available to placing the status offender in such a facility, with due consideration to the best interest of the juvenile; 4) specifies the length of time, not to exceed seven days, that the status offender may remain in a secure detention facility or correctional facility, and includes a plan for the status offender’s release from such facility. Such an order may not be renewed.
Racial and Ethnic Disparities (RED): Formerly under the Disproportionate Minority Contact requirement, states were required to assess and address the disproportionate contact of youth of color at key decision points in the juvenile justice system. The JJRA of 2018 requires States to focus on Racial and Ethnic Disparities (RED). The Act requires that states collect and analyze data on racial and ethnic disparities, and requires states to determine which points of system contact create racial and ethnic disparities, and establish a plan to address these system points.
Jail Removal: Juveniles may not be detained in adult jails except for limited (“de minimis”) periods before release or transporting them to an appropriate juvenile placement (6 hours), in rural areas (24 hours plus weekends and holidays), or when weather and travel conditions prevent authorities from transporting them. Research indicates that children housed in adult jails are eight times as likely to commit suicide, five times as likely to be sexually assaulted, twice as likely to be assaulted by staff, and 50 percent more likely to be attacked with a weapon, than children in juvenile facilities.
Sight and Sound Separation: When children are held in an adult jail under the exceptions listed above, they may not have any sight or sound contact with adult inmates. Thus, children cannot be housed with adult inmates or next to adult cells, share dining halls, recreation areas, or any other common spaces with adult inmates, or be placed in any circumstances in which they could have any visual or verbal contact with adult inmates. The JJRA of 2018 requires that not later than 3 years after the date of enactment, States are required to ensure sight and sound separation and jail removal for youth awaiting trial as adults. This protection previously applied only to youth being held on juvenile court charges. An exception continues to exist for cases where a court finds, after a hearing and in writing, that it is in the interest of justice.