Truancy, Running Away, and Other Status Offenses: New Report Calls for Services and Support—Not Prosecution—for Young People Exhibiting These Behaviors
Thousands of young people end up in courtrooms every year because they run away from home, skip school, or engage in other risky behaviors that are prohibited only because of their age. Responding to these cases, called “status offenses,” in court can lead to deeper juvenile justice system involvement, including detention or placement in a residential facility—outcomes that are out of proportion to the young people's actions. Courts are not equipped to assess or address the underlying circumstances at the root of this misbehavior, and punitive sanctions can do more harm than good.
With From Courts to Communities: The Right Response to Truancy, Running Away, and Other Status Offenses, the Center on Youth Justice at the Vera Institute of Justice, supported by funding from the MacArthur Foundation’s Models for Change Resource Center Partnership, aims to raise awareness about status offenses and spur conversations about how to effectively handle these cases by offering promising examples of state and local reform.
Later this week, Vera will also launch the online Status Offense Reform Center (SORC) as a resource to policymakers and practitioners. SORC will help states and localities develop useful community-based responses to young people whose behavior is problematic, but noncriminal in nature. The site will provide tools for planning, implementing, and sustaining a reform process; host webinars, podcasts, and a blog exploring the latest research and lessons learned from the field; and run a helpdesk to provide additional information.
In 2010, approximately 137,000 status offense cases were handled by the courts. In more than 36 percent (nearly 50,000) of those cases, the most serious allegation was truancy. With these resources Vera plans to help states and localities reposition juvenile courts as a last resort in these situations, instead of the default response.