The latest comprehensive survey of the U.S. juvenile justice system paints a mixed picture of troubled youth even as the numbers of teens in the system continued a long decline, reports the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange. Juvenile arrests for violent crime have dropped to a 30-year low, and fewer teens are being locked up than at any time in nearly 20 years, says the National Center for Juvenile Justice (NCJJ). The number of killings committed by youth under 18 is at the lowest point in at least three decades. “Rather than in years when the story was “Oh my God, look at how high the numbers are,' now it's the reverse — 'Oh my Lord, look at how far they've dropped,'” center director Melissa Sickmund said.
She said the decline in arrests “has rippled through the system,” meaning fewer youths end up in residential placement, “particularly the types of residential placement that are the sort of upper, deep end, more like prison kind of places.” The 244-page report includes data on arrests, commitment and detention up to 2010. It's the first such report since 2006 by the NCJJ, the research arm of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges. Jeffrey Butts of John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said the figures reflect a long-running decline in juvenile crime since a peak in the mid-1990s, but doesn't address the reasons behind that fall. “It appeals to policymakers and elected officials to think that states are getting better due to their own efforts, but crime is coming down everywhere,” said Butts.