Identifying and Managing Juvenile Justice Delays

This project provided the juvenile justice field with empirical information and practical approaches for improving the efficiency of the juvenile court process for delinquency cases.

As juvenile and family courts work to improve the timeliness of their services and sanctions, and to share what they learn with others, they need better information about the causes and consequences of delay, sound methods for controlling unwanted delay, and flexible techniques for tracking case processing time. In particular, they need methods for monitoring changes in processing time during the implementation of delay-reduction efforts and for evaluating the impact of those efforts.

Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago worked in collaboration with the National Center for Juvenile Justice to analyze recent patterns in delinquency case processing time and review methods used by juvenile courts to monitor and improve timeliness. Researchers began the project by reviewing the professional and academic literature about case processing time. Next, the study team visited three urban juvenile courts to meet with court administrators and judges and to discuss the range of obstacles they face in identifying and reducing processing delays.

The three jurisdictions visited by the project were:

  • Cincinnati (Hamilton County), Ohio
  • Grand Rapids (Kent County), Michigan
  • Peoria (Peoria County), Illinois

Project staff next analyzed patterns in delinquency processing time by drawing on the millions of case records stored in the National Juvenile Court Data Archive at NCJJ. Data files from nearly 300 U.S. jurisdictions were examined to explore case processing patterns over the past two decades. Drawing upon the insights developed through the project’s interviews, site visits, and data analyses, the study team described approaches for measuring and analyzing delinquency case processing time.

Results from the project were available in 2009.

Project Staff
Jeffrey Butts, PI
Gretchen Cusick
Elissa Gitlow

$249,000. U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice.

NCJJ Partners
Howard Snyder
Ben Adams

Final Report
Butts, Jeffrey A., Gretchen Ruth Cusick, and Ben Adams (2009). Delays in youth justice. Chicago, IL: Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago.