Failed Policies, Forfeited Futures: A Nationwide Scorecard on Juvenile Records (2014)
Children, especially teenagers, make mistakes. They engage in reckless and unwise behavior that, as adults, they would never even consider. Sometimes, their actions violate the law and lead to contact with the justice system, creating juvenile court and law enforcement records. Notably, 95% of youth in the juvenile justice system have committed non-violent offenses, and because adolescence is a transient and volatile stage of life, the vast majority of young people naturally mature into adulthood without any additional contact with the law.
Despite this reality, juvenile records will follow them into adulthood. Juvenile records can have devastating effects. They can limit youths’ ability to secure housing, obtain jobs, join the military, pursue higher education, or receive public benefits.
Juvenile Law Center published the scorecard to address the negative consequences that flow from the retention and dissemination of juvenile records, and to illustrate how states differ in their treatment of those records. Laws pertaining to the retention of records should reflect the recognized differences between youth and adults. This publication ranks each state’s overall treatment of records based on its performance in two policy areas: confidentiality of records during and after juvenile court proceedings, and the availability or ease of sealing or expungement.
For each of the two policy areas, we identified core principles to ensure the protection of juvenile records. We then compared each state’s performance with our core principles for juvenile record protection to obtain the state’s overall score. The final composite score for each state was based on a maximum of 100 points that could be awarded in 15 policy areas. For a complete state-by-state analysis and to see how each policy area was scored, visit https://juvenilerecords.jlc.org/juvenilerecords2014/.