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Juvenile Courts and Statistics in California

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Juvenile Courts and Statistics in California

     It is a common knowledge that juvenile offenders in the state of California were those violating the law and arrested by the authorities at age lower than 18. Quite a number of researches by psychiatrists and sociologists has been conducted on the causes of juvenile delinquency. It was the 13 year study of McCord and McCord published in 1959 involving 650 eleven year old children that gave credibility and proof to the hypothesis that “Parental permissiveness and laxness is the cause (…) of such delinquent and aggressive behavior.

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  In fact, children coming from homes with permissive parents are thirteen times more likely to produce delinquent and aggressive behavior than children coming from homes with overly strict and punitive parents”. (Hwang, et al, ca 2007, Abstract). According to the authors, this conclusion was supported with similar study conducted by Paulson involving California adolescents incarcerated for striking their parents in 1990. Steadily rising number of juvenile offenders since 1900s lead to the establishment of California juvenile court in 1903.

During the initial inception of juvenile court, the age limit to be considered as juvenile offender was set at 16 (California Blue Ribbon …., 2008). The Commission quoted that “California has a rich history of judicial support for children and families dating back to 1903 when the state’s juvenile court was first established” (1st para.). This paper aims to document the state of California’s juvenile court system and support the public perception that government initiatives to rehabilitate the youth offenders resulted to lower re-incarceration and prevented them from becoming adult offenders.

The Juvenile Justice System of California

      Unlike the adult criminal justice system whose focus is punishment, the juvenile justice system primarily focuses on rehabilitation and generally is a local responsibility. The counties and state run juvenile facilities, provide more education, treatment and counseling programs  than adult offenders (lao.ca.gov, 2007). The website said that “following the arrest of a juvenile, the law enforcement officer has the discretion to release the juvenile to his or her parents, or to take the suspect to juvenile hall and refer the case to the county probation department (Juvenile Justice System, 3rd para.). The probation officer can decide to close the case at intake or with the permission of parents, place a juvenile to informal probation. About 50% of the cases refereed to probation authorities resulted to filing a petition for a juvenile court hearing of the case. The juvenile court judges consider the recommendation of the probation of officer to place the offender to juvenile hall or camp or rehabilitate at home, placed in foster care or group home under the supervision of the same officer. Placement decisions were normally based on factors like nature of offense or criminal sophistication, prior record and the capacity of the county to provide treatment. Less than 2% of annual juvenile arrestees which constitute the chronic and serious offenders were placed to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) under the state’s responsibility and were being tried by adult criminal court. They remain under the DJJ facility until their 18th birthday. The juvenile convicts were then transferred to state prison for the remainder of their sentence.

Classification of Juvenile Offenders

     The website lao.ca.gov (2007) cited the following legal classification of California juvenile


Informal Probationers Welfare and Institutions Code Section 654

Known as “654s”  Juveniles who have committed a minor offense.  Probation officers have a great deal of flexibility and can place a juvenile on informal probation if the officer decides the juvenile is under the jurisdiction of the juvenile court or is likely to be under its jurisdiction in the future. These juveniles are often diverted into substance abuse, mental health, crisis shelters, or other services. Status Offenders Welfare and Institutions Code Section 601

Known as “601s” Juveniles who have committed offenses unique to a juvenile, such as truancy, a curfew violation, and incorrigibility.   They can be placed on formal probation but cannot be detained or incarcerated with criminal offenders. Criminal Offenders Welfare and Institutions Code Section 602

Known as “602s”

   Offenders under the age of 18 years who commit a misdemeanor or felony. Subject to the jurisdiction of a juvenile court, can be placed on formal probation, detained before adjudication in a juvenile hall, and/or incarcerated after adjudication in a county or state facility.

  Juveniles Remanded to Superior Court Welfare and Institutions Code Section 707

Known as “707Bs” or remands   Any juvenile age 14 or older, who commits specified felonies and is, determined not fit for adjudication in juvenile court. Tried in superior court as an adult. If convicted, is sentenced to state prison and held in a DJJ facility for all or part of sentence

Prevalence of Juvenile Crime in California

The website lao.ca.gov (2007) reported that in 2005, there were 223,000 juvenile arrests.

 Misdemeanor crimes such as petty theft, assault and battery accounted for 60% of all juvenile offender arrests while felony arrests for burglary accounted for 27% of the total juvenile

                      Definition: Number of juvenile felony arrests per 1,000 youth ages 10-17.

                      Data Source: State of California Department of Justice, California Criminal Justice Profiles


offenders. The so-called status offenses, such as truancy and curfew violations, accounted for 13 percent of juvenile arrests in 2005. Comparing the arrest between the adult and juvenile offenders for misdemeanor and felony offenses in the period of 1973 to 1993, more juveniles were arrested per 100,000 population as shown in the graph. Data from California Department of Justice revealed that from 1995 to 2006, except for San Francisco county, the juvenile arrests per 1,000 population ranged from 16to 20% with a generally decreasing trend from 1998 onwards. The San Francisco county juvenile arrests declined gradually from 1998 to 2002 and on the rise since then up to 2006.

Programs offered to status offenders and juvenile delinquents

     The status offenders and juvenile delinquents were usually arrested for truancy, curfew violation, and incorrigibility and as such were considered light violations and need immediate rehabilitation to prevent the violations from being habitual and escalate to full blown crime. The programs being offered by the government for rehabilitation of these offenders were incorporated in the Juvenile Justice and Deliquency Prevention Act (Burfeind and Bartusch, 2006). According to the authors, “this act was the first major federal initiative to address juvenile delinquency in comprehensive scale” (p.44).They were as follows:

     1. Deinstitutionalization of status offenders which means no status offenders may be held in

         secure detention or confinement.

     2. Sight and sound separation, meaning juveniles shall no be detained or confined in secure

         institutions where they may have contacts with incarcerated adults and inmate trustees.

        This is to pre-empt possible injection into the mind of juveniles of new bad ideas.

     3. Jail and lockup removal which means juveniles cannot be locked up in jails together with

         hardened criminals regardless of severity of crime committed.

     4. Disproportionate minority confinement which means juvenile offenders should not be

         confined in overcrowded juvenile halls.

Major change in existing juvenile laws

     The website lao.ca.gov (2007) mentioned that Proposition 21 if approved, will change tremendously the existing provisions of the Juvenile Law in California. Proposition 21 in effect will put more juveniles in adult courts because it will empower the prosecutors to move the case to adult court for serious crimes and the judges can make the decision instead of a jury. Furthermore, Proposition 21 will require adult trial court for juveniles 14 and older for murder and sex crime charges. It will also make it easier for juveniles to be back to prison for mere probation violations. Minors can no longer be released to their parents before trial of cases involving firearms. Proposition 21 will take away the confidentiality rights in juvenile proceedings for serious crimes and it can authorize law enforcement agencies to make public the names of minors over 14 accused of serious crimes. In addition, Proposition 21 will toughen the punishment for gang-related crimes and may possibly be sentenced to death. Also, youth convicted of gang crimes will require registration with the police as with sex offender now. The “three strikes” law will be extended to juvenile offenders making it possible to jail juvenile offenders for life for less serious crimes.

Summary and Conclusion

     It was documented that the major cause of juvenile delinquency and subsequent arrest as law violator was laxness of a predominantly permissive family. This was contrary to popular belief that punitive and overly disciplinarian parents cause rebellious and overly aggressive offsprings. Based from experience, no parents would like their children to be juvenile law offenders. Laxness in the family is a product of busy schedule of both parents in search of the proverbial bacon to support the needs of the family. The busy schedule rob practically all the time supposed to be spent with the children and guiding them to the right direction and path of life.

     It was also proven from documents reviewed that the California Juvenile Court which was established in 1903 was primarily aimed to rehabilitation of the young law offenders. Its programs and fund were directed to giving the juveniles all the chances to be productive citizens of the state. This was the reason for the seemingly leveled curve of trend in relation to arrests since 1998 in majority of the California counties. The juvenile arrests for status offenders ranged from 13 to 15% per 1,000 youth population over the years except for the San Francisco county which kept on steady rise from 2003 to 2006. Misdemeanor crimes account for about 60% of the juvenile offender arrest and about 2% were from inflicting serious crimes.

     To discourage further the juvenile delinquents from committing crimes, Proposal 21 was put on the table for approval of the California citizens and is being deliberated since year 2000. The proposal will take away majority of the chances for rehabilitation of the young offenders and instead may lengthen their stay in juvenile hall or jails due to the extension of the three strikes law into the juvenile courts as proposed by proposal 21. If approved, this will discourage juveniles to commit repeated petty crimes as they will languish in jail for the rest of their lives. The new law if approved, together with the existing program for rehabilitation of juveniles and the close affinity to the right family values will definitely reduce the chances that that our children will graduate to being a hardened criminals. The California Juvenile Justice

System is our partner that ensures our children will mature as useful citizens of the country.


Burfeind, J. and Bartusch, D. (2006). Juvenile Deliquency. Jones and Burlett Publishers.


California Blue Ribbon Commission on Children in Foster Care (2008). Chronology California

     Dependency Courts. Retrieved November 10, 2008 from


Hwang, A., Hansen, E., Lafond, R., and Robinson, P. (ca 2007). Is Juvenile Delinquency and

     Aggression Produced by Permissive or Punitive Parenting: Re-evaluating 50 years of

     Research. Brigham Young University. Paper Presented at the American Association of

     Behavioral and Social Sciences National Convention (n.d.)

Lao.ca.gov. (2007). California’s Criminal Justice System: A Primer. January 31, 2007.      California Legislative Analyst’s Office. Retrieved November 10, 2008 from


Cite this Juvenile Courts and Statistics in California

Juvenile Courts and Statistics in California. (2016, Nov 08). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/juvenile-courts-and-statistics-in-california/

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