Juvenile Detention Decision-Making: Discriminatory or the Case of No Alternative?

Erika Gebo, University of New Hampshire

Pre-adjudicatory detention is considered to be a crucial stage in the juvenile justice process. It is a point at which juveniles' freedom can be restricted, and it is a critical variable in the ultimate disposition of cases. Specifically, youth who are detained are more likely to be sentenced to secure facilities. Certain groups, such as minorities, face disproportionate detention confinement thereby compounding the issue. Over the last several years, detention screening tools haave emerged to assist juvenile justice officials in making appropriate detention placement decisions. This study examines factors associated with detention decision-making in four counties of a Northeastern U.S. state. Two of the counties use a screening tool, and two do not. Differential decision-making and discrepancies with the use of the instrument are analyzed through the use of quantitative and qualitative methods. Implications for alternative practices and policy changes are discussed.

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Updated 05/20/2006