Strengthening Families and CommunitiesSupporting Kids and Young Adults

Status Offense Reform

Every year, thousands of young people are arrested, brought to court, and held in locked juvenile facilities for minor conflicts with the law—behaviors like skipping school and running away—that may be cause for concern, but are only illegal for kids under the age of 18. Recent research confirms what seems like common sense: using the justice system to respond to this behavior wastes taxpayer dollars and harms kids and families.

Communities want to find ways to keep these kids out of handcuffs and safely at home with their families. Most often, the supports these kids and families need are better delivered by schools, counseling centers, or child welfare services, instead of courts. Vera's Center on Youth Justice helps communities learn what works and apply it to their own challenges. Our goal is to show that these kids can be more successful if we keep them away from the justice system completely.

Related Work

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 commonly ...

March 01, 2015