About Deinstitutionalization of Status Offenders (DSO)

The deinstitutionalization of status offenders (DSO) is the first of four Core Requirements (also referred to as "protections") set forth in the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) of 1974, as amended. The Code of Federal Regulations defines a status offender as “a juvenile charged with or adjudicated for conduct that would not, under the law of the jurisdiction in which the offense was committed, be a crime if committed by an adult” (28 C.F.R. 31.304[h]). The five major types of status offenses are truancy, running away, ungovernability/incorrigibility, violating curfew laws, and violating underage liquor laws.

Noncompliance with the DSO requirement (and the other three Core Requirements) carries several consequences. If a State is found to be noncompliant, OJJDP will reduce the State’s Formula Grants (Title IIB) allocation by not less than 20 percent for the subsequent fiscal year for each Core Requirement with which the State fails to comply, and the State must agree to spend 50 percent of its allocation for that subsequent year to achieve compliance.

States may have difficulty achieving full compliance for a variety of reasons. For example, State legislation and judicial policies may not comport with the Federal DSO requirement, or States may not have sufficient programs to fully meet the needs of runaways, truants, and other youths who do not merit secure detention (Steinhart, 1996). In addition, identifying evidenced-based strategies that target specific factors contributing to the institutionalization of status offenders has been one of the biggest obstacles to developing initiatives that effectively promote DSO. 

OJJDP encourages jurisdictions, whenever appropriate and feasible, to select and implement both direct service strategies (i.e., programs aimed at youth and families that provide prevention or intervention services for particular status offenses) and system change strategies (i.e., efforts designed to alter organizational policies, procedures, rules, and systemwide “ways of doing business” that define how a juvenile justice system operates).