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For Immediate Release:  
For Further Information Contact:
December 7, 2005

Office of The Attorney General
- Peter C. Harvey, Attorney General

 

Paul Loriquet
609-292-4791

 

Attorney General Peter C. Harvey Announces Mandatory Stationhouse Adjustment of Juvenile Delinquency Offenses to New Jersey Law Enforcement Agencies

TRENTON –Attorney General Peter C. Harvey today announced a directive mandating that all police departments in New Jersey use an alternative method to resolve matters involving juveniles who are involved in minor delinquent activity.

The directive mandates a “stationhouse adjustment,” a process by which the police officer, who is responsible for juveniles asks the parent, guardian, or caregiver of the juvenile, and the victim, if willing, to come to the station house to discuss the offense. The officer may refer a juvenile for needed services, and, if property has been stolen or damaged, require the juvenile to make restitution in some form. Usually the officer will discuss the offense with the juvenile’s parent, guardian or caregiver and seek assurances that the juvenile will not commit any future offenses.

“The stationhouse adjustment process allows police officers to resolve minor disputes without the need to file a complaint with the court,” said Attorney General Harvey. “The goal is to effectively supervise our young people so that they make better decisions to avoid criminal offenses. We also expect this process to give victims of minor offenses a quick remedy.”

“This directive culminates more than two years of study, research and collaboration among affected agencies,” added Attorney General Harvey.

In May 2004, the Attorney General appointed a Stationhouse Adjustment Working Group to report on the State's use of stationhouse adjustment policies and procedures and to make recommendations concerning any changes in existing policy guidelines to ensure equal treatment of juveniles in every jurisdiction of the State. This Working Group was established in response to preliminary reports from the April 2003 joint statewide Juvenile Disparity Inquiry between the New Jersey Department of Law and Public Safety, the Judiciary, the Juvenile Justice Commission and the local County Youth Services Commissions. The preliminary findings in these reports suggested that the way in which municipalities use stationhouse adjustments ranges from being virtually non-existent in one town, resulting in a complaint being filed every time a juvenile is charged with an offense, to situations in neighboring towns, where the law enforcement agencies’ use of such programs for first time offenders results in juveniles being diverted with no record or court intervention.

According to Attorney General Harvey, stationhouse adjustments date back to a long-standing policy of encouraging law enforcement agencies to divert from formal court proceedings those juveniles who are involved in minor delinquent activity. These diversions allow officers to make the best possible use of limited available resources and give unruly youths an opportunity to understand the seriousness of their behavior, with the hope that they will not repeat it in the future. Differences in the use and application of this program has prompted significant implications of the equal administration of justice for juveniles throughout the state.

In his directive, Attorney General Harvey has promulgated Stationhouse Adjustment Guidelines for all municipal and other law enforcement agencies having patrol jurisdiction within the State of New Jersey. Training opportunities about the guidelines and effective stationhouse adjustment techniques will be provided by experienced Prosecutors and Juvenile Officers through the coordination of the Division of Criminal Justice. The 21 County Prosecutors will oversee the implementation of guidelines by police departments in their respective counties.

The Stationhouse Adjustment Working Group was chaired by representatives from the Department of Law and Public Safety and included members from municipal Police Departments, County Prosecutors' Offices, the Office of the Public Defender, the Juvenile Justice Commission, the Juvenile Officer's Association, the New Jersey State Association of Chiefs of Police, the New Jersey State Police Field Operations Section. Also included was a member of the academic community and, in addition, the Working Group consulted with the Administrative Office of the Courts. The Working Group concluded that stationhouse adjustments are generally perceived by law enforcement as a valuable means of resolving minor juvenile delinquency matters and that by the promulgation of a uniform statewide adjustment policy, many disadvantages or inconsistencies could be reduced or even eliminated.

“The Division of Criminal Justice and the county prosecutors’ offices are encouraged that the Stationhouse Adjustment Program is appropriate for first-time juvenile offenders who commit minor offenses,” said Criminal Justice Director Vaughn L. McKoy. “The Attorney General’s Directive looks to a common sense approach to deal with delinquent activity and serves as a potentially effective alternative to a full-blown prosecution that can remain with a juvenile for a lifetime.”

“For most young people, their first contact with the juvenile justice system is their local police department. Many times, these youth will never have contact with the system again. The uniform use of stationhouse adjustments will give our local law enforcement officers an important tool to help get young people on the right track and build stronger communities. By bringing families, caregivers and law enforcement together, and identifying any need for support services, this early intervention strategy can prevent a juvenile’s further involvement in the juvenile justice system,” said Howard L. Beyer, Executive Director, Juvenile Justice Commission. “The earlier we can a reach a young person with services and support, the more likely we are to help a that young person lead a productive life.”

“The Station House Adjustment Program is an important diversionary tool that should be used by all police departments,” said New Jersey Juvenile Officers’ Association President Detective Sergeant Robert Sarnecki. “In New Jersey, it benefits the victims of crime by allowing them to obtain justice without having to go to court. At the same time, it allows first-time juvenile offenders who commit minor offenses to face immediate consequences for their actions without being formally charged. This allows the juvenile an opportunity to correct their behavior while avoiding a formal delinquency record. The Station House Adjustment Program is strongly supported by the New Jersey Juvenile Officers’ Association.”

“We are pleased that Attorney General Harvey recognizes the importance of stationhouse adjustment - and I support this initiative,” said New Jersey Public Defender Yvonne Smith Segars. “In some communities these programs have proven successful in responding to adolescent behavior without the need for a formal court process. As a result of this directive children in all communities will have the opportunity to benefit from alternative programs. We hope that all police departments will be creative in developing strategies for diverting youth from the juvenile delinquency system. This is good public policy that benefits children, families and communities.”


The Statewide Stationhouse Adjustment Program

  1. Who is Eligible for a Stationhouse Adjustment?

    Any Youth who has been arrested for an:
    • Ordinance Violation;
    • Petty Disorderly Persons Offense;
    • Fourth Degree offenses may also be considered if juvenile has no prior record that is known or can be determined by the law enforcement officer.

    Excluded Offenses

    The following offenses are excluded from stationhouse adjustments unless there is approval from the county prosecutor:

    • Use or possession of a controlled dangerous substance or drug paraphernalia as defined under the New Jersey Criminal Code 2C, Chapters 35 & 36;
    • Bias offenses;
    • Sexual offenses;
    • Offenses resulting in serious bodily injury;
    • Third degree offenses;
    • When charges against juvenile are already pending before the Court;
    • When juvenile is currently on probation, parole, home detention or other court disposition.

  2. Why conduct a Stationhouse Adjustment?
    • Best interest of everyone involved.
    • Victims better served.
    • Matter resolved locally.
    • Opportunity to get to the root of the problem.
    • Give wayward youth an opportunity to understand the seriousness of his/her behavior.
    • Immediate consequence.
    • Equal Administration of Justice.

>> Stationhouse Adjustment Program Training Guide (html)

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