An Empirical Analysis of Detention Decision Making in the Juvenile Justice System

Jessica Hodge, University of Delaware
Richard Greenleaf, California State University Fresno

This research examines the detention of youth in one county juvenile department in Oregon located in a predominantly White and Hispanic community. The sample (N=150) included Hispanic and White youth detained during July 2001-June 2002. Using quantitatibe analyses, the following independent variables were examined to assess what factors influence the decsion to detain youth: age, sex, race, whom the youth lives with, school involvement, gang involvement, current offense (misdemeanors, felonies, probation violations, and parole violations), prior offense (misdemeanors or felonies), and the number of prior adjudications and referrals. In addition to quantitative analyses, interviews were also conducted with juvenile probation officers and judges to supplement the official records. Similar to previous tudies, this research revealed that older youth were more likely to be detained than younger youth. Moreover, it was also found that males were more likely detained for new law violations; whereas, females were more likely to be detained for probation violations (i.e. noncompliance with court conditions, runaway status, or truancy). This research not only contributes to the understanding of the factors that influence detention decision making, but also to the literature of Hispanic youth involved in the juvenile justice system.

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Updated 05/20/2006