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Juvenile Justice Reform in New York State - The Juvenile Offender Law

NCJ Number
Law and Policy Volume: 8 Issue: 4 Dated: (October 1986) Pages: 463-477
Date Published
15 pages
This article describes the legal developments associated with New York State's criminalizing of certain juvenile offenses formerly considered delinquencies, examines the extent to which these policies have been implemented, their relationship to shifting patterns of institutional custody, and their impact upon juvenile crime rates.
Liberal juvenile justice policies in New York State were questioned as a result of the rapid rise in violent juvenile crime in New York City in the 1960's and early 1970's. This led to the enactment of the 1976 Juvenile Justice Reform Act and the Juvenile Offender Law (JO). The JO law provides that juveniles aged 13, 14, or 15 charged with murder and those aged 14 or 15 charged with other designated felonies are to be prosecuted in adult criminal court. If convicted, these 'juvenile offenders' are subject to penalties similar to those imposed on adults convicted of the same offenses. Between September 1, 1978, and September 1, 1985, the rate of JO arrests in New York City was 17.1 per 1,000 juveniles compared to 1.4 per 1,000 for the rest of the State. The majority of the arrests did not result in criminal convictions, and almost two-thirds of those convicted were given probation. This suggests that criminal justice officials believe that criminal conviction and punishment is inappropriate for the vast majority of young offenders, regardless of their offenses. The drop in juvenile arrests for index offenses may be due to a change in enforcement policy. Still, the probability that a juvenile will be committed to secure confinement has increased, and many of the State's resources previously committed to community-based treatment are being diverted to institutional programs. 4 notes, 3 tables, and 28 references.

Date Published: January 1, 1986