Decision-Making in the Juvenile Justice System in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio, 1999-2000 (ICPSR 3581)
Principal Investigator(s): Sarri, Rosemary, University of Michigan. Institute for Social Research. Center for Political Studies
The goals of the juvenile justice system in the United States have always been multiple, beginning with rehabilitation, the primary goal when the juvenile court was established. More recently, policies advocating accountability seem to have predominated over other goals of the court, and concern exists that structured decision-making (SDM) in support of individual accountability has begun to fundamentally change the juvenile justice system. This study examined the use of SDM in state correctional agencies in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio and in juvenile courts in three counties in each of those states. Data were collected in phases from March 1999 to August 2000 during periodic site visits. Probation officers, judges and referees, prosecutors, and defense attorneys were interviewed in each of the 12 courts. Each survey contained a core set of questions eliciting respondents' views of juvenile justice, disposition objectives, and the use and value of SDM. Questions relevant to particular decision-makers were also included. All respondents provided demographic information and information about their job experience in criminal justice and professional training.
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Sarri, Rosemary. DECISION-MAKING IN THE JUVENILE JUSTICE SYSTEM IN ILLINOIS, INDIANA, MICHIGAN, AND OHIO, 1999-2000. ICPSR version. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan, Institute for Social Research [producer], 2000. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2003. http://doi.org/10.3886/ICPSR03581.v1
Persistent URL: http://doi.org/10.3886/ICPSR03581.v1
This study was funded by:
- United States Department of Justice. Office of Justice Programs. National Institute of Justice (98-JB-VX-0110)
Scope of Study
Date of Collection:
Unit of Observation: Individuals.
Universe: Probation officers, judges and referees, prosecutors, and defense attorneys in juvenile courts in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio.
Data Types: survey data
Data Collection Notes:
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Study Purpose: The juvenile justice system in the United States, implemented at the turn of the twentieth century as a legal and social institution for children, has undergone significant changes over the last quarter century. The goals of the juvenile justice system have always been multiple, beginning with rehabilitation, the primary goal when the juvenile court was established. More recently, policies advocating accountability seem to have predominated over other goals of the court, and concern exists that structured decision-making (SDM) in support of individual accountability has begun to fundamentally change the juvenile justice system. SDM is generally defined as a formal and standardized procedure to guide decision-makers by defining the criteria they must use in their deliberations and eventual decisions. Major types of SDM are risk assessment, needs assessment, and security level classification. This study examined the use of SDM in state correctional agencies in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio and in juvenile courts in three counties in each of those states. The project had six specific goals: (1) To assess the effects of recent revisions in juvenile codes on decision-making processes in juvenile courts, (2) to identify correlates of processing and placement decisions, (3) to document and analyze the policies and practices of individual accountability as an organizing principle that defines the relationships among public agencies and citizens, (4) to assess the utility of various types of SDM in sample courts, (5) to assess the context for decision-making to find causes and correlates of case processing decisions and the patterns of accountability and structured decision-making, and (6) to assess practitioners' perspectives about structured decision-making, classification, and risk and needs assessment.
Study Design: Data were collected in phases from March 1999 to August 2000 during periodic site visits. The first site visits were made to units of state government involved with the court. Using data from state site visits, which usually lasted three days, the selection process for courts and counties was refined. Once courts were tentatively selected, chief judges at each of the selected courts were contacted to determine their willingness to participate in the study. The second set of site visits was to each of the selected courts. In several courts, surveys were not distributed on the first visit but were mailed and distributed by the court. However, in-person distribution of the questionnaires was more effective in securing high response rates. Probation officers, judges and referees, prosecutors, and defense attorneys were interviewed in each of the 12 courts. The surveys were based on previous surveys of juvenile court decision-makers and SDM, for example, Champion (1994) and Barton and Creekmore (1994), which were modified to fit the study. Each survey contained a core set of questions regarding juvenile justice administration, but modifications relevant to particular decision-makers were made. The survey was pre-tested in two counties and further changes were made based on those results. The survey was self-administered in each of the courts. The names of potential respondents were obtained through the assistance of court administrators and/or department heads.
Sample: Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio were selected because they are contiguous states in the same geographic region, and it was assumed that they would share common properties, such that the states' general environments would not be a significant factor affecting interpretation of the research findings. Among factors that these four states have in common are the following: concentration of basic industry, extensive farming in rural counties, one or more major urban areas, and significant racial and ethnic diversity. Another criterion for selecting these states was their variation in terms of characteristics related to case processing and juvenile justice. The states varied greatly in the availability and types of state resources at local as compared to state levels. In each state, three counties were chosen based on selection criteria designed to include a variety of contexts for SDM. First, a populous urban jurisdiction was selected in each state. These jurisdictions had large case volumes and pressure to process cases quickly, as some of the most serious social problems, such as poverty and high arrest rates, occurred in the large urban jurisdictions. Second, a community was selected that provided a range of community resources for dispositional programs. These resources would provide many dispositional alternatives, suggesting more complex decision-making. Third, a community was selected that had several social problems but limited dispositional resources. These communities faced processing pressures without resources, making it likely that decision-making would be simpler and more constrained. Mitigating the choice of counties were such things as a court's willingness to participate and geography. A few counties were unable to participate for a variety of reasons, such as court reorganization or staff turnover. The study sought to avoid geographic concentration in the sample. In one state, most of the large and medium-sized counties were geographically concentrated, so in that state smaller courts were selected. The study attempted to survey all probation officers, judges and referees, prosecutors, and defense attorneys in each of the 12 counties.
Data were collected from self-administered questionnaires.
Description of Variables: All respondents were asked to answer a core set of questions as well as questions that related to their specific role as judge, probation officer, prosecutor, or public defender, in the juvenile justice system. All respondents answered questions on their general views of juvenile justice, which included questions on the importance of rehabilitation, punishment, and due process. There were also core questions on disposition objectives, what factors turn juveniles away from further involvement in delinquency and crime, the use of SDM, the value of SDM, whether decisions recommended by SDM are too lenient, about right, or too restrictive, the meaning of accountability, and inter-organizational and community relations, including questions on community groups' influence over the court, similarity of the respondent's views to the views of others in the community, and the working relationship between the court and community groups. In addition, prosecutors and public defenders answered questions on the factors that influenced their decision to file a petition, recommend a disposition, and make a waiver decision to adult court. Judges and probation officers answered additional questions on the availability of resources for the juvenile court in their county, factors that influenced them when making a disposition, and the usefulness of SDM, including questions on situations in which the respondent had overridden SDM recommendations. Judges also answered questions on judicial discretion. The probation survey data include several derived variables. All respondents provided background information, including age, gender, ethnic/racial background, marital status, number of children in certain age groups, past job experience in criminal justice, percentage of cases handled that were juvenile, duties unrelated to juvenile justice, job satisfaction, attendance of professional training meetings, and which organizations provided the training. Probation officers were also questioned on the highest level of education attained.
Response Rates: In total, 65.2 percent of probation officers, judges and referees, prosecutors, and defense attorneys completed the surveys.
Presence of Common Scales: Several Likert-type scales were used.
- Standardized missing values.
- Checked for undocumented or out-of-range codes.
Original ICPSR Release: 2003-06-05
- 2006-03-30 File UG3581.ALL.PDF was removed from any previous datasets and flagged as a study-level file, so that it will accompany all downloads.
- 2006-03-30 File CQ3581.ALL.PDF was removed from any previous datasets and flagged as a study-level file, so that it will accompany all downloads.
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