Figures that Illustrate How Substantial JJPDA Compliance Changes Are

As we’ve covered in recent days, the Justice Department has formally proposed new rules for compliance monitoring related to the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA). Chief among the changes these rules would usher in are a shift from what’s called “de minimis” standards to “substantial compliance.”

The difference in the standards is tremendous. Youth Services Insider will use figures related to the Deinstitutionalization of Status Offenders (DSO) to demonstrate exactly how big a change the new rules amount to.

YSI-MB-PageAs it is right now, a state is considered to be in compliance with the DSO standard if its total number of detained or confined status offenders amounts to 5.8 youths per 100,000 under-18 citizens in the state. There are some significant caveats that allow states to get away with more, and those will go away under these rules, but 5.8 per 100,000 is the mark.

Under the new standards, that mark would drop to .24 per 100,000. That figure was arrived at by taking the 2013 numbers on DSO compliance from the three best-performing states from each of the four JJPDA regions.

Even as just math on paper, that looks like a huge step up in scrutiny. But let’s look past that.

As the proposed rules note, in 2013 there were 1,960 instances of non-compliance with DSO, nationwide. But let’s assume that every state had the maximum amount of non-compliance instances under de minims. Based on fiscal 2013 national population data, that would mean 4,269 confinements of status offenders was within the acceptable standard.

Under the new standards? Only 177 incidents of DSO non-compliance, nationwide.  That’s 4.1 percent of the acceptable cases under existing standards, and would require a 91 percent decrease from the 2013 level of 1,960 non-compliance incidents.

Now, let’s widen out and look at DSO over time. In its 2009 report, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency noted an interesting historical comparison on DSO. OJJDP added up the total number of DSO violations committed by each state in the year they began participating in JJDPA. For most states, that went down in the 1970s or early 1980s.

The figure OJJDP got by adding all of those first years: 171,076 kids were detained for status offenses. When compared with the 1,960, that’s a 99 percent drop in total DSO violations. 

So in the first four decades of JJPDA participation, the number of DSO violations went down 99 percent. And the new DSO standards essentially ask states to accomplish the same rate of reduction in one year that it took them 40 years to accomplish.

Of course, the JJDPA compliance isn’t a national one; this is just meant to express what these new rules use as a new definition for success, as compared to the old definition. Compliance with the .24 rule will be tested in each state, individually.

According to analysis of the rules obtained by YSI, 43 states would not measure up. And to do so, according to overall youth population tallies in each states, there are only four states  – California, Texas, New York and Florida – that could suffer just 10 DSO violations and still meet the new compliance bar.

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John Kelly
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John Kelly is editor-in-chief of The Chronicle of Social Change.