Core Requirements

Under the JJDPA, all states, territories, and the District of Columbia must comply with the following core protections:

1. Deinstitutionalization of Status Offenders (DSO)

Status offenses are offenses that only apply to minors whose actions would not be considered offenses if they were adults. The most common are skipping school, running away, breaking curfew, and possession or use of alcohol. Under the JJDPA, status offenders may not be held in secure detention or confinement. There are, however, several exceptions to this rule, including allowing some status offenders to be detained for up to 24 hours. The DSO provision seeks to ensure that status offenders who have not committed a criminal offense are not held in secure juvenile facilities for extended periods of time or in secure adult facilities for any length of time. These children, instead, should receive community-based services, such as day treatment or residential home treatment, counseling, mentoring, family support, and alternative education. 

2. Adult Jail and Lock-Up Removal (Jail Removal)

Youth may not be detained in adult jails and lock-ups except for limited times before or after a court hearing (6 hours), in rural areas (24 hours plus weekends and holidays), or in unsafe travel conditions. This provision does not apply to children who are tried or convicted in adult criminal court of a felony level offense. This provision is designed to protect children from psychological abuse, physical assault, and isolation. Children housed in adult jails and lock-ups have been found to be eight times more likely to commit suicide, two times more likely to be assaulted by staff, and 50 percent more likely to be attacked with a weapon than children in juvenile facilities, according to U.S. Department of Justice Studies.

3. "Sight and Sound" Separation

When children are placed in an adult jail or lock-up, as in exceptions listed above, "sight and sound" contact with adults is prohibited. This provision seeks to prevent children from psychological abuse and physical assault. Under "sight and sound," children cannot be housed next to adult cells, share dining halls, recreations areas, or any other common spaces with adults, or be placed in any circumstances that could expose them to threats or abuse from adult offenders.

4. Racial and Ethnic Disparities 

States are required to assess and address the racial and ethnic disparities of youth at all points in the justice system - from arrest to detention to confinement. Studies indicate that youth of color recieve tougher sentences and are more likely to be incarcerated than white youth for the same offenses. With youth of color making up one-third of the youth population, but two-thirds of youth in the juvenile justice system, this provision requires states to gather information and assess the reason for disproportionate minority contact.