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

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

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 commonly ...

March 01, 2015