Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act

History of the JJDPA

Established in 1974 and most recently authorized in 2018 with bipartisan support, the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) is based on a broad consensus that children, youth, and families involved with the juvenile and criminal courts should be guarded by federal standards for care and custody, while also upholding the interests of community safety and the prevention of victimization.

Click here if you'd like to learn about recent efforts to reauthorize the JJDPA.

The Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) provides for:

  • A nationwide juvenile justice planning and advisory system spanning all states, territories, and the District of Columbia;
  • Federal funding for delinquency prevention and improvements in state and local juvenile justice programs and practices; and
  • The operation of a federal agency, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, which is dedicated to training, technical assistance, model programs, and research and evaluation, to support state and local efforts.

The JJDPA has four Core Requirements:

Deinstitutionalization of Status Offenders (DSO)

A status offender is a juvenile charged with or adjudicated for conduct that would not, under the law of the jurisdiction in which the offense was committed, be a crime if committed by an adult. The most common examples of status offenses are chronic or persistent truancy, running away, violating curfew laws, or possessing alcohol or tobacco. This JJDPA requirement focuses on alternatives to placing juveniles into detention facilities for status offenses.

Adult Jail and Lock-up Removal

This requirement focuses on removing juveniles from adult jails and detention facilities.



Sight and Sound Separation

This requirement ensures that accused and adjudicated delinquents, status offenders, and non-offending juveniles are not detained or confined in any institution where they may have contact with adult inmates.


Racial and Ethnic Disparities

This requirement focuses on helping states address and eliminate racial and ethnic disparities within the juvenile justice system.


The Importance of a Federal-State Partnership with State and Local Jurisdictions

Given that there are hundreds of different juvenile justice systems throughout the U.S. states and territories, it is critical that juvenile justice have a dedicated focus and a “home” within federal government. This department would serve the purposes of developing national policies, objectives, priorities, and plans, and for providing guidance, support, and oversight to states/territories in implementing the JJDPA. The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) is the agency charged with responsibility for juvenile justice at the U.S. Department of Justice. OJJDP carries out its purposes through research, policies, and grants to states and localities. These grants assist them in planning, establishing, operating, coordinating, and evaluating projects for the development of more effective education, training, research, prevention, diversion, treatment, and rehabilitation in the areas of juvenile delinquency prevention and systems improvements.

Similarly, it is imperative that the states be in constant and collaborative contact with the federal government in order to develop strategies that work for the states, meet local needs, and lead to best and promising practices for children, youth, and communities across the nation. The SAGs fulfill this role, individually and collectively, by:

  • Embodying models for collaborative systems change;
  • Providing real-world advice and counsel to their respective Governors and state legislatures, as well as the President and the U.S. Congress; and
  • Serving as incubators for cost-effective innovations that create optimal outcomes for the prevention of delinquency.