The Technical Assistance to the Juvenile Court Project operated between 1983 and 2011 to provide the best available information to juvenile court staff, other juvenile justice professionals, and interested citizens in a timely, cost effective, manner. Over the long span of the project, NCJJ developed significant staff expertise, services, and resources aimed at helping juvenile courts and probation departments address day-to-day problems and improve operations.

Landmark Desktop Guide to Good Juvenile Probation Practice series still widely used after more than two decades

A major part of NCJJ's Technical Assistance to Juvenile Court project for many years, the Juvenile Probation Officer Initiative (JPOI), developed the Desktop Guide to Good Juvenile Probation Practice series. The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention published the first edition of the Desktop Guide to Good Juvenile Probation Practice in 1991 and distributed it to a mailing database of 18,000 juvenile probation officers representing every line probation officer, supervisor and chief juvenile probation officer in the country. Subsequently, a best-practice juvenile probation training curriculum was developed based on the Desktop Guide and field tested in four states, and a companion Juvenile Probation Administrator's Desktop Guide, was developed and distributed to a national mailing list of close to 2,000 juvenile probation administrators.

The second edition of the Desktop Guide to Good Juvenile Probation Practice, released in 2002, was updated to reflect a decade's worth of change and reform and was distributed to 1,800 juvenile probation administrators across the country. The initial printing of 5,000 guides was exhausted within the first two years of its release. The 2002 edition remains in circulation and can be found on the desks and office shelves of probation officers across the country.

Charting change in state responses to serious juvenile crime

Prompted by increases in violent juvenile crime in the early 1990s legislatures in states all across the U.S. changed laws to address the problem. The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) asked NCJJ to document the various ways states were responding to the surge in juvenile violence. OJJDP released the findings in State Responses to Serious and Violent Juvenile Crime in 1996. The State Responses report detailed numerous changes aligned in a handful of themes across the 50 states and DC in reaction to a national upsurge in juvenile offending — limits placed on the boundaries of juvenile jurisdiction (coined the term "blended sentencing"); reductions in the confidentiality associated with juvenile justice; changes in correctional programming (including a proliferation of youthful offender programs); and a recognition of victims' rights. The impact of these changes is still highly present in state policies today. The State Responses report is cited in similar works today that document current changes in the juvenile justice policy landscape and make comparisons to prior waves of change in juvenile justice.  Show More 

State juvenile justice profiles then — Juvenile Justice GPS in the future

NCJJ's approach for documenting state practice and policies eventually evolved into the State Juvenile Justice Profiles web site. At its peak in 2005, the web site logged over 500 user sessions per day and was a tool for practitioners across the country. The site was archived at the conclusion of the project and the state profiles and national overviews it contained have been converted into a PDF publication that is available for download on the NCJJ web site.

In the past year key facets of the old state profiles web site have been updated and are currently available on the OJJDP Statistical Briefing Book:

  • Jurisdictional Boundaries
  • Organization & Administration of Delinquency Services
  • Juveniles Tried as Adults

Juvenile Justice - Geography, Practice, and Statistics web site
With a new wave of reforms comes a new wave of NCJJ documenting changes in state policies and practice. Work is underway to chart reforms on key issues with support from the MacArthur Foundation. NCJJ will launch the Juvenile Justice - Geography, Practice, and Statistics web site in the spring of 2014. The site will address the landscape of change in the following focus areas: state juvenile justice jurisdictional boundaries, juvenile defense, fundamental juvenile justice services, racial and ethnic fairness in juvenile justice, status offense issues, and systems integration (issues of youth with both child protection and delinquency system involvement).

Technical assistance consultation and special topic bulletins

NCJJ's Technical Assistance project also was involved in providing practical problem-solving to a wide range of juvenile justice practitioners. NCJJ staff responded to thousands of questions over the life of the project. A portion of the responses involved extended services involving an on-site presence. Clients ranged from state agency task forces and commissions to local-level juvenile courts and probation agencies. Issues addressed with extended consultation were expanded and memorialized in the Technical Assistance to the Juvenile Court Bulletin series for a broader audience of stakeholders. Among the more popular bulletins in the series are:

  1. When Systems Collide: Improving Court Practices and Programs in Dual Jurisdiction Cases
    Identifies promising court-based or court-linked practices and programs that address the difficult challenges posed by dual jurisdiction cases.
  2. A Vision, a Mission, and a Plan for Strategic Action in Washtenaw County, MI
    This bulletin uses the experience of Washtenaw County (Ann Arbor, Michigan) Trial Court Family Division – Juvenile Center to illustrate using strategic planning to achieve system reform.
  3. Workload Measurement for Juvenile Justice System Personnel: Practices and Needs
    Discusses approaches to measuring juvenile justice system personnel requirements.

The first Juvenile Court Statistics report was published in 1929 by the U.S. Department of Labor's Children's Bureau. The report presented information based on 1927 data from 42 courts in 15 states. Since 1975, the work has been the responsibility of the National Center for Juvenile Justice's (NCJJ) National Juvenile Court Data Archive project (the Archive) that is funded by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, U.S. Department of Justice. The data used in the 2010 national estimates were contributed to the Archive by more than 2,300 courts with jurisdiction over 83% of the juvenile population.

Back in 1927 the data were reported to the Children's Bureau on cards–yellow ones for delinquency or status offense cases and blue for dependency or neglect cases. One card was submitted for each case with information on age, gender, and race of the juvenile; the reason for referral; the manner of dealing with the case; and the final disposition of the case. During the 1940s, however, the collection of case-level data was abandoned because of its high cost. From the 1940s until the mid-1970s, Juvenile Court Statistics reports were based on simple, annual case counts reported to the Children's Bureau by participating courts. In 1957, the Children's Bureau initiated a new data collection design that enabled the Juvenile Court Statistics series to develop statistically sound national estimates. The Children's Bureau, which had been transferred to the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW), developed a probability sample of more than 500 courts. Each court in the sample was asked to submit annual counts of delinquency, status offense, and dependency cases. This approach, though, proved difficult to sustain as courts began to drop out of the sample. At the same time, a growing number of courts outside the sample began to compile comparable statistics. By the late 1960s, HEW ended the sample-based effort and returned to the policy of collecting annual case counts from any court able to provide them. The Juvenile Court Statistics series, however, continued to generate national estimates based on data from these nonprobability samples.

The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) became responsible for Juvenile Court Statistics following the passage of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act of 1974. In 1975, OJJDP awarded the National Center for Juvenile Justice (NCJJ) a grant to continue the report series. Although NCJJ agreed to use procedures established by HEW to ensure reporting continuity, NCJJ also began to investigate methods of improving the quality and detail of national statistics. A critical innovation was made possible by the proliferation of computers during the 1970s. As NCJJ asked agencies across the country to complete the annual Juvenile Court Statistics form, some agencies began offering to send the detailed, automated case-level data collected by their management information systems. These information systems often reflected traces of the original statistical cards used to collect the data back in the 1920s. NCJJ learned to combine these automated records to produce a detailed national portrait of juvenile court activity - returning to the original objective of the Juvenile Court Statistics series. The project's transition from using annual case counts to analyzing automated case-level data was completed with the production of Juvenile Court Statistics 1984. For the first time since the 1930s, Juvenile Court Statistics contained detailed case-level descriptions of the delinquency and status offense cases handled by U.S. juvenile courts. This case-level detail continues to be the emphasis of the reporting series.

Other changes to the Juvenile Court Statistics series were introduced with the 1984 report: status offense estimates were limited to estimates of petitioned cases because non-petitioned cases are often handled outside the court and dependency case estimates were discontinued because the reporting coverage was judged to be insufficient to support national estimates.

The Archive is currently conducting a study of the feasibility establishing a dependency court data archive to once again develop national estimates of court handling of dependency matters. This would bring Juvenile Court Statistics full circle to the statistical reporting series originally envisioned in the 1920s.

As was the case with the data collection effort back in 1927, today's Archive depends on the voluntary contributions of juvenile courts and juvenile justice agencies. Back in 1927, the Children's Bureau sent participating courts each a set of 22 tables of their own statistics for use in their annual reports - a small "thank you" of sorts. Today's Archive provides a wide range of free technical assistance to its data providers and hosts a biennial workshop so they can share their research and network with one another. The Archive continues to advocate for data improvements to support decision making. The Archive also makes submitted data files available to researchers.

Researchers who have made use of Archive data include some of the top researchers in the field, such as:
Jeffrey Butts John Laub
Meda Chesney-Lind Peter Leone
David Farrington Ed McGarrell
Barry Feld Bill Sabol
Don Gottfredson Rob Sampson
Lynn Huff-Corzine Paul Tracey

The Archive has been a core project of NCJJ's for nearly 4 decades. Over the years most NCJJ staff members have "cut their teeth" working on the Archive. Hundreds of thousands of Juvenile Court Statistics reports, bulletins, fact sheets, and online presentations have been used by juvenile justice professionals nationwide and internationally as the primary source for information on the activities of juvenile courts in the U.S. Click here for a full listing of all Juvenile Court Statistics reports published by NCJJ.

Then and now - JCS by the numbers  Show More 

Superman and NCJJ

In the mid-1970s, a series of 10 DC Comics strips featuring Superman were "published as a public service in cooperation with the National Center for Juvenile Justice, the research division of the National Council of Juvenile Court Judges and National Periodic Publications, Inc." Each one conveyed a different message about youth and juvenile justice.

The first was completed in 1975 and was released in March of 1976. The last came out in 1977. Many were drawn by renowned DC artists, Neal Adams and Curt Swan. Since they were first published, these Superman posters have been proudly displayed at NCJJ offices.

A very limited number of complete sets of these Superman posters (11" X 17") are available for purchase. Contact NCJJ@ncjfcj.org for more information.

NCJJ's 40th Anniversary

National Center for Juvenile Justice Celebrating 40 Years of Improving Justice for Children & Families through Research & Technical Assistance

Melissa Sickmund, Ph.D., Director
National Center for Juvenile Justice

The National Center for Juvenile Justice (NCJJ) began in 1973 with funding raised by then Allegheny County juvenile court judge, Maurice Cohill, an NCJFCJ Board member at the time. Judge Cohill thought that given the importance of the decisions made from the bench in the lives of children and their families, it would be good for the Council to have a research department. The planning effort began in 1967. Judge Cohill persisted and eventually raised enough money in his home town of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to hire a Director and open for business. That Director was Hunter Hurst III and the rest as they say, is history.

Excerpt from Judge Cohill's message in NCJJ's first annual report:

It is with a great deal of personal pleasure that I write this introduction to the first annual report of the National Center for Juvenile Justice. I became involved with the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges in planning for the Center in 1967, and what then seemed like an impossible dream came true in the fall of 1973.

Arrangements have been made to locate the Center at the University of Pittsburgh, School of Law, and a committee of judges did an exhaustive job in reviewing candidates for the directorship of the Center. Hunter Hurst was hired as Director in September 1973 and he completed the hiring of his staff in November 1973 through June 1974. Despite this, I have been amazed at the many directions Center activities have taken and the variety of projects it has undertaken.

NCJJ staff can look back with pride and face the future with confidence

The Center's goal is to generate sufficient income to become self-supporting within the next few years. My personal review of the first eight months of operations leads me to believe that this is a realistic goal.

Excerpt from Judge Cohill's message in NCJJ's 30th anniversary annual report:

In our early years, the Center faced a number of potential problems: What would the research community think about a judges' organization doing research on judicial issues? How would the National Council staff in Reno react to another staff across the country in Pittsburgh? Where would the money come from?

There have been positive answers to all of those problems. The Center is recognized by the research community as a responsible, reliable, and independent resource. The staff in Reno and the staff in Pittsburgh get along very well, despite the inconvenience of distance and time zones.

The money has always gotten here - sometimes later than we would have liked, sometimes not as much as we would have liked, but always enough to keep us keeping on. Life in the non-profit world is never easy - especially when so much depends on the vagaries of Congress, the economy, and our success with grant proposals. Nevertheless, the Center is a vital and viable instrument benefiting the juvenile justice system and those whom the system is intended to benefit.

Excerpt from Hunter Hurst's message in NCJJ's second annual report:

The major highlight of the year as far as I am concerned is just around the corner. It now appears reasonably certain that the Center will be awarded a contract by the U.S. Department of Justice to collect juvenile court statistics nationally. This task was originally done by the U.S. Children's Bureau in 1926. We have already begun the process of collecting 1974's statistics. This achievement provides us with the capacity to be of service to courts as well as researchers, planners, and legislators.

This project to date is a tribute to the imagination and foresight of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges for their efforts in designing and supporting a truly relevant and practically useful National Center for Juvenile Justice.

So, in 1975, NCJJ established itself as the collector of juvenile court case records for the newly established Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), continuing a project that dates back to the 1920s. That project, the National Juvenile Court Data Archive, remains at the core of NCJJ's work today. NCJJ is now also involved in several other national Department of Justice data collections.

Forty years involves far too many projects to list them all. Suffice it to say that NCJJ has had a major role in juvenile justice in the U.S. not only through national data collection, but through data and system improvement efforts at the local, state, and national levels. NCJJ also has a major role in disseminating research, statistical, statute, and practice information to the field and to the public. NCJJ will continue to articulate the need for data-driven decision making and work to assist jurisdictions in applying data to decision making and continue to work with jurisdictions to help them in their system reform efforts.

For four decades, NCJJ has provided technical assistance, conducted research and provided objective, factual information that professionals and decision makers in the juvenile and family justice system can use to increase effectiveness. NCJJ's success stems from a unique blend of technical skill and practical experience that has enabled us to make complex research and statistical information practically understood by juvenile justice professionals and decision makers.

Excerpt from Hunter Hurst's message in NCJJ's 30th anniversary annual report:

If thirty years in this business means anything, it means that you did not take the money and run and you had some luck that was not all bad.

Some of our good luck was being founded by a strong organization - The National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, having an able and willing Board of Fellows - chaired from the beginning by a stalwart, Hon. Maurice B. Cohill, Jr., and a generous response from local foundations, corporations, and the U.S. Department of Justice. With that kind of start up, all that remained was finding good employees and giving them their head. On this last count, we hit the jackpot!

We have the best employees in the Western hemisphere. The quality of their work is without parallel.

- Hunter Hurst

I joined NCJJ in the fall of 1986, when NCJJ had just turned 13. I now have the honor of serving as NCJJ's third Director. I'd like to reiterate two of Hunter's points above. First, the fact that we are still here thriving after 40 years says something about our work (and our luck). Second, we have the best employees anywhere. The quality of their work is without parallel. Our funding is strong with more than $3.25 million in projects for the coming year. NCJJ staff can look back with pride and face the future with confidence.

If you do not know NCJJ or our work, please contact me. I'd love to enlighten you.

If your court or other juvenile justice agencies in your jurisdiction need help with anything relating to data, research, or statistics, please contact me. I'd love the opportunity to discuss ways that NCJJ can work with you to improve juvenile justice in your community.

If you are familiar with NCJJ and our work, please contact me. I'd love to talk with you about ways you can spread the word and perhaps help support our future by making a donation.

Dr. Sickmund can be reached at 412–246–0824 or msickmund@ncjfcj.org.