Strengthening Families and CommunitiesSupporting Kids and Young Adults

Status Offense Reform

Every year, juvenile courts handle more than 100,000 so-called status offense cases involving young people charged with truancy, under-age drinking, violating curfews, running away from home, and other behaviors that are illegal only because of their status as a minor. But courts are not well equipped to handle these cases, and often open a door that leads young people deeper into the justice system rather than addressing the underlying causes of their behavior.

We have worked on this issue since 2002, when the number of cases nationally exceeded 200,000, and now operate a national resource center to help local officials serve these kids in the community instead of taking them to jail. Additionally, we're providing direct support to jurisdictions in Wisconsin and Georgia to help them develop new responses to these young people.

Related Work

Series: Gender and Justice in America

How the Criminalization of Adolescence Fuels the School-to-Prison Pipeline

In her new play on the school-to-prison pipeline, Notes from the Field, actress and playwright Anna Deveare Smith reenacts interviews with 17 people from the education and criminal justice systems. The school-to-prison pipeline is a national trend in which children are pushed out of public schools and into the juvenile justice system. Smith’s play ...

Blog Post
  • Kristi  DiLallo
    Kristi DiLallo
January 17, 2017
Blog Post

Status Offense Reform Center

Providing community-based alternatives to court and juvenile justice system involvement

Every year, thousands of youth are brought to court, held in detention, and placed in locked facilities for “status offenses”—noncriminal behaviors like truancy, running away, curfew violations, and underage drinking, which are only prohibited due to their age. Typically, youth charged with these offenses are experiencing an array of underlying iss...

  • Vidhya Ananthakrishnan
    Vidhya Ananthakrishnan

Series: Gender and Justice in America

Ending the unjust treatment of girls charged with minor offenses

Since the early 90s, research has shown that girls in the juvenile justice system are more likely than their male peers to be detained for status offenses and minor delinquent behavior. The findings of a recent study by researchers at the University of Texas provides strong evidence that, despite dramatic reform over the last 15 years, the tendency...

Blog Post
  • Lindsay Rosenthal
    Lindsay Rosenthal
October 26, 2015
Blog Post

Status Offense Toolkit

Resources for developing and implementing effective status offense reform strategies

Many jurisdictions across the U.S. seek to reform punitive responses to status offenses, and implement support-focused strategies instead. However, transforming a juvenile-justice oriented status offense system—one that is likely complex— into one that is community based, family focused, and service oriented can be challenging.  Questions common...

March 01, 2015

Innovations in NYC Health and Human Services Policy

The Close to Home Initiative and Related Reforms in Juvenile Justice

Guided by research indicating that community-based alternatives are often more effective and less expensive and stigmatizing than placing juvenile offenders in institutional facilities, New York City has worked to reduce over-reliance on such dispositions and to ensure that those youth that may be placed in an institutional facility are in one near...

  • Jennifer Jensen Ferone, Annie Salsich, Jennifer Fratello
January 03, 2014

A Generation Later

What We've Learned About Zero Tolerance in Schools

Zero tolerance school discipline policies—mandating suspension or expulsion of students for misconduct—have gained tremendous momentum in middle and high schools since they were introduced in the late 1980s. This report looks at existing research to answer three questions: How does zero tolerance discipline affect individual students and the overa...

  • Jacob Kang-Brown, Jennifer Trone, Jennifer Fratello, Tarika Daftary-Kapur
December 11, 2013