Closing the Courthouse Door to Kids Who Misbehave

Closing The Courthouse Door For Kids Who Misbehave Full
The idea that kids who have not committed crimes are coming into the justice system at all is unfair, ineffective, and costly.

All of this comes at an enormous fiscal and social cost. Processing status offense cases in court is both inefficient and expensive, particularly for kids or families who require immediate help. When these cases do result in confinement, the costs can be upwards of hundreds of thousands of dollars annually. Meanwhile, this approach isolates kids from their support networks and potentially exposes them to a range of harmful experiences.

With support from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, and others, Vera’s Center on Youth Justice has worked since 2002 in states and localities to find alternatives for these cases. Through this work, we have synthesized the lessons we have learned and identified key recommendations to propel the decriminalization of status offenses, which are highlighted in our new report Just Kids: When Misbehaving is a Crime. At the heart of these recommendations is a simple premise: kids should be treated like kids. Together, the recommendations serve as a blueprint for how jurisdictions can nurture communities and create child-serving systems that believe in the promise of all kids and help them grow into healthy adulthood.

With calls to end mass incarceration and juvenile confinement at a heightened pitch nationwide, the idea that kids who have not committed crimes are coming into the justice system at all is unfair, ineffective, and costly. The good news is that we know what to do to fix the problem. Now’s the time to start.