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Juvenile Records and Recordkeeping Systems

NCJ Number
Date Published
November 1988
To examine juvenile records and recordkeeping systems, national surveys were sent to 500 randomly selected law enforcement agencies, State central criminal history repositories, and presiding judges in the 45 largest juvenile court jurisdictions.

The law enforcement survey addressed issues related to fingerprinting, written reports of contacts with juveniles, the content of records, sealing and expungement of juvenile records, tracking juvenile histories, access to and dissemination of juvenile records, record audits, and recordkeeping systems. Similar areas of concern were addressed in the other two surveys. Results indicate that the usefulness of law enforcement records may be seriously limited by the quality of the records. Less than a fourth of agencies had policies requiring written contact reports, and even fewer had auditing procedures to ensure accuracy of records. Court dispositions frequently were lacking, and only half of agencies had procedures for obtaining court or prosecutor dispositions or for review of records by the subject or legal representative. Complete juvenile history records were available in relatively few cases, and where available, they were obtained by diverse formal and informal procedures. About a third of law enforcement agencies forwarded arrest records to a central repository. About a fourth of agencies fingerprinted juveniles, and many of these prints were later sealed or expunged. A large majority of law enforcement agencies, repositories, and courts had sealing and/or expungement policies for juvenile records. Penal code terminology was used in records by all judges and 87 percent of law enforcement agencies. A review of juvenile record statutes is included. 4 figures, 7 tables, 13 appendixes, and 111 footnotes.

Date Published: November 1, 1988