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Status offense reform

Strategies to safely and effectively divert non-delinquent youth from the formal juvenile justice system.

Youth charged with status offenses have engaged in behaviors that are prohibited under law only because of their age, such as skipping school, running away, or violating curfew. Disobedient but not delinquent, these young people have acted out in ways that raise the concern of the adults in their lives.  In 2010, an estimated 137,000 status offense cases were petitioned in juvenile court.  Responding to these cases in court can lead to deeper juvenile justice system involvement, including detention or placement in a residential facility, and ultimately, may do little to address the deeper personal, familial, community, and systemic issues that can underlie status offense behaviors.

Models for Change supports research, policies and practices that appropriately respond to the troubled but not delinquent behavior of status offenders. Through its participation in the Models for Change Resource Center Partnership, the Status Offense Reform Center (SORC) of the Vera Institute for Justice serves as a clearinghouse of information and assistance for practitioners and policymakers in juvenile justice, with a focus on encouraging and showcasing strategies to safely and effectively divert non-delinquent youth from the formal juvenile justice system.

Check out SORC's Toolkit for Status Offense Systems Reform.

Featured publications

Initiative tools, research, knowledge, and innovations to promote reform

Publication cover Status Offenders and Race
Dec 12, 2014, Center for Children's Law and Policy
Status Offenders and Race
Publication cover Advancing Juvenile Justice: Recommendations in Three Key Areas
Dec 8, 2014, Mental Health and Juvenile Justice Collaborative for Change
As OJJDP considers how best to carry out its mission, three core issues stand out for their intense need, their proven potential for reform, and the opportunities they offer OJJDP to lead significant…
Publication cover Keeping Kids Out of Court: Rethinking Our Response to Status Offenses
Oct 8, 2014, Status Offense Reform Center
Status offenses are behaviors that are problematic but non-criminal in nature —such as running away from home, skipping school, or violating curfew—which are prohibited under the law only…
Publication cover Runaway Youth: A Research Brief
May 28, 2014, Sydney McKinney
Running away is a status offense in 39 states. While the exact number of youth who run away from home each year is unknown, evidence suggests that most return home within a few days. This research…
Publication cover SORC Toolkit Module 3: Planning and Implementing System Change
Apr 30, 2014, Status Offense Reform Center
Toolkit for Status Offense System Reform Transforming a juvenile justice oriented status offense system – one that is likely complex and has been in place for decades – into one that is…

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Leading organizations

Network partners advancing reforms and providing assistance, lessons, and support

Vera Institute of Justice
(212) 334-1300

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News

Editorial: Springfield's secret to criminal justice reform — compromise
6/16/2015, Chicago Sun-Times
Illinois law would change process for juvenile offenders
6/12/2015, Associated Press
Illinois Prison Overcrowding and Costs Prompt New, “Smart” Approaches to Offenders
6/10/2015, Reboot Illinois

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Models for Change is supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, website operated by Justice Policy Institute.

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