logo_ojjdp_newWith the increase in delinquency caseloads during the 1990s, juvenile justice experts were concerned that delays in case processing could be reducing the effectiveness of the juvenile court process. Compared with the timing of criminal court trials, the juvenile court process seems expeditious, but delays in the juvenile justice system should be viewed from the perspective of an adolescent offender. Professional standards suggest that even the longest case should be processed within 90 days. Yet, a 90-day process means that a 14-year-old offender will wait the equivalent\par of a summer vacation for services or sanctions. In many of the nation’s juvenile courts, young offenders wait even longer.

The Delays in Juvenile Justice sanctions Project examined the timing of the juvenile court process using a large data base of case records contributed to the National Juvenile Court Data Archive at the National Center for Juvenile Justice. The project analyzed nearly 3 million delinquency cases handled between 1985 and 1994 by nearly 300 jurisdictions in 17 States (Alabama, Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Utah, and Wisconsin). Data from these jurisdictions were analyzed because the included counties (1) were relatively large, with populations of at least 20,000; (2) contributed detailed case records to the National Juvenile Court Data Archive every year from 1985 through 1994; and (3) their data files included reliable measures of court processing time. Together, the selected jurisdictions contained 22 percent of the U.S. juvenile population.

Advisory Committee for the Delays in Juvenile Justice Sanctions Project

  • Ms. Eleanor Austin, Director of Court Services (Retired), Wayne County Probate Court, Detroit, Michigan
  • Dr. Carol Burgess, Former Deputy Director, Maricopa County Juvenile Court, Phoenix, Arizona
  • Hon. Cheryl Allen Craig, Family Division, Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
  • Mr. David Fishkin, Chief, Juvenile Division, Baltimore City Office of the Public Defender, Baltimore, Maryland
  • Mr. John Howley, Assignment Services Manager, Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas, Cleveland, Ohio
  • Ms. Kim Kelly, Juvenile Court Administrator, Maricopa County Juvenile Court, Phoenix, Arizona
  • Hon. Sharon McCully, Third Judicial District Court, Salt Lake City, Utah
  • Dr. Edward Mulvey, Law and Psychiatry Program, Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine
  • Ms. Joyce Wright, Chief, Juvenile Division, States Attorney Office for Baltimore City, Baltimore, Maryland

Work on the Delays in Juvenile Justice Sanctions Project was completed in 1995.

Project Staff
Jeffrey Butts, PI
Gregory Halemba

$200,000. U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Program Manager, Jeff Slowikowski

Butts, Jeffrey A. & Greg Halemba (1996). Waiting for justice: Moving young offenders though the juvenile justice process. Pittsburgh, PA: National Center for Juvenile Justice.

Butts, Jeffrey A. (1997). Delays in juvenile court processing of delinquency cases. (Fact Sheet #60.) Washington, DC: Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, US Department of Justice.

Butts, Jeffrey A., and Joseph Sanborn (1999). Is juvenile justice just too slow? Judicature, 83: 16-24.

Butts, Jeffrey A. (1997). Necessarily relative: Is juvenile justice speedy enough? Crime & Delinquency, 43(1): 3-23.

Butts, Jeffrey A. (1996). Speedy trial in the juvenile court. American Journal of Criminal Law, 23(3): 515-561.

Butts, Jeffrey A., and Greg Halemba (1994). Delays in juvenile justice: Findings from a national survey. Juvenile & Family Court Journal, 45 (4), 31-46.