Who Do You Refer? The Effects of a Policy Change on Juvenile Referrals

Document Type


Publication Date



In: Criminal Justice Policy Review, Vol. 15, No. 4, 2004


This article examined the effect that limiting police discretion regarding juvenile court referrals had on the referral of first-time juvenile arrestees to a county family court. Data were drawn from Lakeside, a midsized Midwestern police department, and are composed of juvenile arrest and county court records. Data were compiled on all juveniles arrested for the first time in 1993 (prepolicy change) and 1995 (postpolicy change). Overall, juveniles were more likely to be referred to the county family court following the policy change. Younger offenders and offenders with less serious offenses were, consonant with our hypotheses, significantly more likely to be processed through the court after the policy change. Contrary to our expectations, the findings indicate that the likelihood of referral for race and gender combinations did not change significantly. This research highlights the importance of controlling for policy changes when examining trends in juvenile arrests and referrals.