Juvenile Justice Data

Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission
for Calendar Years 2007 and 2008

February 10, 2009


In a model juvenile justice system, data drives decisions. Only with the right data can state and local policy makers effectively make critical decisions: how to best invest scarce fiscal resources, whether programs and policies are working as intended and where changes must be made to protect public safety and ensure that youth have real opportunities to contribute to their communities. Without complete, accurate and timely data, decision-makers such as legislators, county board members, agency directors, service providers, probation directors, judges, prosecutors, law enforcement officials and many others are forced to speculate or, perhaps worse, use flawed information to guide fundamental decisions about how our system will function.

Case-level data on youth who are involved in the juvenile justice system at any stage of the process would provide significant insight into the needs of youth and effectiveness of the system. Unfortunately, these data are not readily available in a single information system. Instead, juvenile justice data in Illinois are housed in numerous and disparate local and state agencies which creates a significant barrier to understanding the juvenile justice system in Illinois. The IJJC has chosen to highlight three areas of need for this report: arrest, transfer and detention.

Arrest Data

Due to the manner in which data are collected, accurate juvenile arrest data is impossible to obtain. The only arrest data available come from criminal history records. These records are incomplete; not all arrests have to be reported.

The Illinois State Police (in charge of collecting statewide arrest data) does not collect arrest data by age, race, or sex. Under the Illinois Uniform Crime Reporting (I-UCR) program, all law enforcement agencies in the state are required to report monthly offense and arrest data to the Illinois State Police (ISP). Since 1993, I-UCR program has required aggregate-level offense and arrest data. These aggregate totals combine offense and arrest data across gender, race, and age. Unfortunately, the collection of offense and arrest data at the aggregate-level prevents researchers from comparing offender characteristics by age and other important variables.

An alternate source for juvenile arrest data is ISP's Computerized Criminal History (CCH) system. The Illinois Criminal Identification Act mandates that an arrest fingerprint card be submitted for all minors age 10 and over who have been arrested for: 1) an offense which would be a felony if committed by an adult, and 2) any motor vehicle offense (e.g., motor vehicle theft, driving under the influence, and aggravated fleeing and eluding police). Fingerprint-based arrest cards for minors age 10 and over who have committed an offense that would be a class A or B misdemeanor if committed by an adult may be submitted to ISP, but are not required. Further, the Illinois Juvenile Justice Reform Provisions of 1998 mandated that ISP maintain a record of all station adjustments, both formal and informal, for offenses that would be a felony if committed by an adult. The reporting of station adjustments for misdemeanor offenses is also optional.

In 1999, prior to the reporting changes, nearly 40 percent of the largest police departments in the state were not submitting juvenile arrest cards to ISP. By 2001, nearly 90 percent of all police departments in the most populated areas were reporting juvenile arrests. However, even though the percentage of jurisdictions reporting had increased, the volume of arrests expected in a given area, when using Census Bureau population estimates to create a rough benchmark, was found to be adequate in only 22 counties. In other words, while the number of jurisdictions reporting has increased, the number of arrests reported is not as high as expected. Because of these limitations, trends in arrests over the 1999-2001 period cannot be reliably calculated using CCH data.

An additional limitation of arrest data collected through the CCH system is the lack of data on ethnicity. Although CCH does collect arrestee demographic information by race (e.g., Caucasian, African-American, Asian, American Indian), Hispanic ethnicity is not collected. The omission of ethnicity is a result of all state criminal history systems reporting data electronically to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). As a result, the race categories used by CCH may not be comparable to race categories used by other criminal justice agencies that include ethnicity in their race codes (e.g., detention and corrections). In light of these data quality issues, the number of juvenile arrests and the characteristics of those arrested would be conservative, and not an absolute measure of juvenile crime in Illinois.

Transfer Data

Another data collection barrier was encountered when the AOIC discontinued the collection of transfer data in 1999. Due to the manner in which these data are collected, it is not possible to determine the offenses for which the transfers take place, the eventual sentences of the cases once they were transferred, or the demographic characteristics of the juveniles transferred.

Although transfer data are no longer being reported directly to AOIC, the eJMIS allows the IJJC to determine which juveniles admitted to detention had their cases transferred to adult court. Of course the number of transfers are limited to the population of detained youth. Yet given the criteria for detention and the type of offenses that are eligible for transfer to adult court, eJMIS transfer data are a reasonable approximation of the number of transfer cases outside of Cook County.

Detention Data

Of the three types of juvenile justice data, that for detention is the most reliable. These data are available through eJMIS by detention center, county, judicial circuit and the state. This system collects demographic data as well as offense data and details of the stay in detention. However, this system's accuracy is dependent on local quality control efforts; little to no state level oversight exists in regard to data quality.

The barriers identified above make it exceedingly difficult to develop a comprehensive understanding of how youth are served by the juvenile justice system in Illinois. The incomplete picture of juvenile justice as provided by these data serves to hinder a community's ability to target appropriate services to youth which in turn serves to perpetuate an ineffectual system.

IJJC Action and Recommendations


  • IDHS and the IJJC have allocated a total of $120,000 in federal Title II funds per year to two areas: $60,000 to Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority for the preparation of the annual data report Juvenile Justice System and Risk Factor Data, and $60,000 to the University of Illinois for the maintenance and management of the eJMIS system.
  • The IJJC has partnered with the Illinois' Models for Change Initiative to prepare Guidelines for Collecting and Recording the Race and Ethnicity of Youth in Illinois' Juvenile Justice System. This booklet provides instruction and guidance to juvenile justice practitioners, including members of state and local law enforcement, juvenile courts, probation departments, and correctional agencies, on accurate racial coding of juveniles involved in Illinois' juvenile justice system.
  • The IJJC has been supportive of JWATCH, a system currently under development by a partnership of Redeploy Illinois Oversight Board, Models for Change, University of Illinois and the Second Judicial Circuit. The system continues to be piloted in the Second Circuit and will be a requirement for both Redeploy Illinois sites and Models for Change sites in the coming year. This system centralizes data from the probation department and supports case level information


  • The ISP should revise the arrest fingerprint card, and any related systems, to allow for the collection of ethnicity data.
  • Current law should be amended to discontinue the reporting and collection of arrest data for minors age 10 and over who have committed an offense that would be a class A or B misdemeanor if committed by an adult as well as station adjustments for misdemeanor offenses.
  • The AOIC should collect and report detailed transfer data.
  • The AOIC should institute quality control measures for eJMIS reporting.
  • Juvenile justice practitioners, including members of state and local law enforcement, juvenile courts, probation departments, and correctional agencies should follow the Guidelines for Collecting and Recording the Race and Ethnicity of Youth in Illinois' Juvenile Justice System.
  • The Commission recommends a study of the feasibility of implementing the JWATCH system state wide.