Understanding the language and processes of the juvenile justice system can be challenging. This glossary explains key terms related to system involvement and community reentry of youth and young adults. It includes terms related to people with intellectual, developmental, and other disabilities, as addressing the intersection of disability with justice system involvement is a focus of the Y-ReCONNECTS initiative. Please note that there may be some variations in the terms and processes used in different communities.

Juvenile Justice System-Related Terms

Adjudicate — When a judge hears and decides a case. (https://www.nycourts.gov)

Adjudicated Youth — Youth found (by a judge) to be responsible for committing a delinquent act (Council for Children’s Rights, 2018).

Adolescent Offender (AO) — New category created by the Raise the Age Legislation; as of 10/1/19, a 16 or 17-year-old who commits a felony is an Adolescent Offender. (https://www.nycourts.gov)

  • Case is originally heard in the Youth Part of the Supreme or County Court.
  • Case may be transferred to Family Court, where the youth will be considered a juvenile delinquent and will be eligible to receive all the services and programs available to juvenile delinquents.
  • Additional information about the Adolescent Offender category and the Raise the Age Law: https://www.ny.gov/raise-age/raise-age-implementation#adolescent-offender.

Adult Prosecution — Process by which the juvenile court either loses or gives up jurisdiction of a youth and that youth is tried as an adult in a criminal court; process varies by jurisdiction and may include statutes that require youth of a certain age or who committed a specified crime to be automatically tried as an adult, or may require a hearing in which the court (either adult or juvenile) decides which court should have jurisdiction over a youth. https://njdc.info/juvenile-court-terminology/

Aftercare Services — Services that prepare juveniles for reentry into the community and establish the necessary collaborative arrangements to ensure that adequate support and supervision are provided to the youth; also known as “parole” in some jurisdictions; youth must comply with certain conditions of release monitored by a parole officer or caseworker, and parole can be revoked if the youth does not comply with conditions. https://njdc.info/juvenile-court-terminology/

Age-Appropriate Services (New York State)https://www.ny.gov/raise-age/raise-age-implementation#adolescent-offender

  • Probation Case Planning — Adolescent Offenders (AOs) diverted to Family Court will be eligible for adjusted services through probation; programs tailored to the specific needs of the individual; parental notification requirement will be extended to include 16 and 17-year-olds.
  • Program Treatment Model — Youth rehabilitative services will operate under the Program Treatment Model, where youth have access to specialized therapeutic programs to develop cognitive skills; academic transition plans will be developed with the AO student and school psychologist to transition to education programs, vocational training, and/or employment opportunities; substance abuse treatment services are also available.
  • Re-Entry and Discharge Planning — The Department of Correction and Community Supervision, County Re-Entry Task Forces, and Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) will jointly administer discharge planning services; include family reintegration, housing assistance, mental health and medical care, employment support, and educational assistance.
  • Supervision and Treatment Services for Juveniles Program (STSJP) — As of 10/1/18, OCFS expanded eligibility for Supervision and Treatment Services for Juveniles Program to include youth who are alleged to be or convicted as AOs; program covers the continuum of services needed throughout the criminal justice system (prevention, intervention, alternatives to detention, alternatives to placement, and re-entry programming).

Age Out — The point when a youth reaches an age where they are no longer eligible to receive services.

Arraignment (or Initial Hearing) — The first hearing a youth accused of a delinquent act will have in front of a judge; process typically includes assignment of counsel, arraignment, a detention determination, and the scheduling of further hearing dates. https://njdc.info/juvenile-court-terminology/

At-Risk Youth (ARY) — The status of a child or youth after a request for services is made by their parent or guardian because the youth has been: absent from the home for 72 consecutive hours without consent, is beyond parental control to the point they are a threat to health and safety, or has a drug or alcohol problem for which there are no pending charges.

Bench Trial — A trial in which there is no jury.

Bench Warrant — A warrant issued by a judge when an individual fails to follow the rules of the court, (for example, not appearing to a court date or probation meeting), which enables an officer to immediately arrest the individual during a stop.

Child Protective Services (CPS) — The agency that in many states provides services in cases of child abuse or neglect.

Collateral Consequences — Consequences related to juvenile justice system involvement that are beyond the immediate court case; may include things such as: fines; requirement to register as a sex offender; loss or restriction of a professional license; eviction from public housing; ineligible for public funds, including welfare benefits and student loans; the loss of voting rights; ineligibility for or prohibitions against owning a firearm; and immigration consequences. https://njdc.info/juvenile-court-terminology/

Commitment — A court order giving guardianship of a juvenile to the state department of juvenile justice or corrections. The facility in which the juvenile can be placed may range from a secure correctional placement to a non-secure or staff-secure facility, group home, foster care, or day treatment setting.

Community-Based Services — Services designed to meet the needs of an individual and is located near where the individual lives (Council of Children’s Rights, 2018).

Community of Practice (CoP) — A group of people who share a common concern, a set of problems, or an interest in a topic and who come together to fulfill both individual and group goals. (http://www.communityofpractice.ca/background/)

Competence to Stand Trial — Requires that youth have both “sufficient present ability to consult with [their] lawyer with a reasonable degree of rational understanding” and a “rational as well as factual understanding of the proceedings against [them];” counsel must be able to recognize when a youth’s ability to participate in their own defense or to understand the proceedings may be compromised due to developmental immaturity, mental health disorders, or other disabilities. https://njdc.info/juvenile-court-terminology/

Conditional Release — When used pre-adjudication in juvenile justice, refers to release of a child or youth to a specific place, (i.e. family home or group home) until their court date. When used post-adjudication in juvenile justice, refers to re-entry and aftercare programs for youth being released from commitment to assist in a successful reintegration to society.

Crime and Offense Categories (New York State Department of Labor, 2014, The Road to Re-Entry Guide)

  • Violation — An offense leading to no more than 15 days of incarceration.
  • Misdemeanor — An offense leading to more than 15, but not more than one year of incarceration.
  • Felony — An offense leading to one or more years of incarceration.

Criminal Records and Employment Resources:

  • Legal Action Center (2019) guide for lowering criminal record barriers to employment in NYS: Lowering_Criminal_Record_Barriers.pdf (lac.org)
  • Legal Action Center (2013) PowerPoint document on what individuals should know about their RAP sheet: Your Criminal Record, Where It Comes From &…

Culpability — Guilt or blameworthiness; research in adolescent development shows that juveniles have a diminished capacity to understand and process mistakes, learn from experience, engage in logical reasoning, control impulses, and understand the reactions of others (may be especially true of individuals who have mental health or intellectual and developmental disabilities impacting executive functioning abilities); these limitation can diminish personal culpability. https://njdc.info/juvenile-court-terminology/

Detention Center — Locked facilities (similar to jails) where juveniles may be placed pending a court hearing or awaiting placement for a variety of reasons, including when it is alleged that the youth has: 1) committed offenses that would be considered a felony if committed by an adult, 2) assaulted people, or 3) violated conditions of their probation (Council of Children’s Rights, 2018).

Disposition — The court’s final determination of what will happen to a youth following a finding of responsibility of guilt (Council of Children’s Rights, 2018); the stage of a delinquency proceeding comparable to the sentencing stage of an adult criminal trial.

Disposition Plan/Report — Written by various stakeholders in preparation for a disposition hearing, which outlines the care and types of rehabilitative services the party believes the youth needs as a result of adjudication. The court may order psychological evaluations, diagnostic tests, or a period of confinement in a diagnostic facility to aid in the determination of an appropriate disposition. https://njdc.info/juvenile-court-terminology/

Diversion — Process in which a court counselor or law enforcement agency provides an opportunity for a youth to participate in a diversion program (mentoring program, substance abuse program, etc.) in order to avoid formal processing in the juvenile justice court system (Council of Children’s Rights, 2018).

Expunction — Process by which a juvenile who reaches the age of adult criminal responsibility may have juvenile charges wiped clean from the record, if certain conditions are met; some charges are not eligible for expunction, and most juvenile records are confidential and not a public record (Council of Children’s Rights, 2018). This is a practice that varies by age, type of crime, and jurisdiction. Expungement is important because a criminal record can pose difficulties when seeking employment, housing, etc.

Failure of Placement — In the context juvenile justice, refers to a violation of probation or court order.

Family Court — In New York State, the family court hears cases involving adoption, child abuse and neglect, foster care approval and review, guardianship, PINS (see definition in glossary), juvenile delinquency, child support, custody, visitation, spousal support, and family offenses (Orders of Protection), etc. (Legal Glossary | NY CourtHelp (nycourts.gov))

Foster Care — The informal and formal custodial care of youth outside of their own biological family home when their parents are unwilling, unable, or prohibited from caring for them.

Global Appraisal of Individual Needs (GAIN) — A comprehensive, standardized biopsychosocial assessment to support clinical assessments; used for diagnosis, placement, and treatment planning (Council of Children’s Rights, 2018).

Group Home — An out-of-home placement for youth who have been removed from their home that provides 24-hour non-medical care and supervision to youth; provides services to a specific client group and maintains a structured environment.

Guardian ad Litem — Volunteer appointed by the court to investigate and advocate for youth placed in the custody of the Department of Social Services (Council of Children’s Rights, 2018).

Independent Living Program — A program providing training, services, and programs to assist current and former foster youth achieve self-sufficiency prior to and after leaving the foster care system.

Indigent — The status of someone who does not have enough money to pay for an attorney; all youth are considered indigent (Council of Children’s Rights, 2018).

Intake — The process following arrest or referral to the juvenile court in which court personnel or the juvenile probation department investigates a youth’s charges and background and decides whether to release the youth, channel the youth to a diversion program, or formally proceed against the youth in juvenile court. In certain jurisdictions, intake may also include a mandatory observation period (24–72 hours) during which the youth is held in isolation.

Isolation — Solitary confinement.

Justice-Involved Youth — Any youth, adolescent, or young adult who has been arrested or adjudicated, including those experiencing facility or residential placements, open cases in adult court of the juvenile justice arm (including family court and/or child and family services), involvement in pre-sentence services, alternatives to incarceration, diversion services, community-based placements, court oversight, or past justice involvement of this nature.

Juvenile Correctional Facility — A secure residential facility that is used for placement after adjudication and disposition of any juvenile judged as having committed an offense.

Juvenile Delinquent (New York State law) — Child over the age of 7, but under 18 years of age (effective 10/1/19), who commits an act that would be a crime if committed by an adult. (https://www.nycourts.gov)

  • Cases are handled in Family Court.
  • Do not go to jail as adults.
  • Court decides if they need supervision, treatment, or placement through local NYS Office of Children and Family Services.
  • Do not have criminal records.
  • Family Court proceedings are confidential, and in some cases, sealed.
  • As of 10/1/2019:
    • 16 and 17-year-olds charged with misdemeanors under the penal law are considered Juvenile Delinquents, and cases are decided in Family Court.
    • 16 and 17-year-olds charged with felonies are considered Adolescent Offenders, and if cases are removed from the Youth Part in Supreme or County Court to Family Court, they are considered Juvenile Delinquents.

Juvenile Intensive Supervision Program (IPS) — Assigned to juvenile offenders on conditional release or probation to provide structured and frequent contacts with an intensive supervision officer for youth who may otherwise be placed out of the home, as an alternative to incarceration.

Juvenile Offenders (New York State law) — Youth age 13–15 charged with committing a serious or violent felony offense listed in Penal Law 10.00(18). (https://www.nycourts.gov)

  • Cases heard in the Youth Part of the Supreme or County Court.
  • Youth convicted after a plea or trial are subject to less severe sentences than adults.
  • Youth convicted will have a permanent criminal record unless the Court grants Youth Offender status.
  • Cases can be transferred to Family Court if the Court determines the transfer would be in the interests of justice.
  • Upon transfer to Family Court, youth then considered a Juvenile Delinquent.

Observation and Assessment (O&A) — Where youth are sent after being committed to be assessed psychologically, educationally, and physically to determine the best program for that youth.

Parole vs. Probation Supervision

Probation Parole
Definition Period of community supervision that is sentenced instead of incarceration Period of community supervision as a condition of being released from incarceration prior to serving maximum sentence
Agency Oversight NYS Department of Criminal Justice Services, Office of Probation and Correctional Alternatives NYS Department of Corrections and Community Supervision
Entity Authorizing Supervision Sentenced by the court of jurisdiction Granted by an administrative entity, such as the parole board
Additional Information New York State Office of Probation and Correctional Alternatives — Home (ny.gov) Department of Corrections and Community Supervision Home Page | Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (ny.gov)

Persons in Need of Supervision (PINS) — A child under the age of 18 who does not attend school, or behaves in a way that is deemed dangerous or out of control, or often disobeys parents, guardians, or other authorities, may be found to be a Person in Need of Supervision (PINS). (https://www.nycourts.gov)

Petition — The charging document filed in a court by the state; formally initiates a proceeding alleging that a juvenile is delinquent and describes the alleged offenses committed by the youth; may ask the court to assume jurisdiction over the juvenile or ask the juvenile to be transferred to criminal court for prosecution as an adult. https://njdc.info/juvenile-court-terminology/

Placement — Court ordered residential assignments in both the delinquency and dependency systems, which may be secure and prison-like or have a more open setting, like group homes or foster care.

Post-Disposition — Period following the court’s entry of a disposition order that lasts until the youth is no longer under the supervision of the court or any state agency to which they were transferred as a result of a commitment. During this period, a variety of procedures or hearings can require the assistance of counsel. Can include: conducting an appeal or helping the youth obtain new counsel, representing the youth in probation and parole violation hearings, commitment review hearings, extension of incarceration hearings, challenging condition of confinement that violate the youth’s state and constitutional rights, and any other legal counseling required until the youth is no longer supervised in the case. https://njdc.info/juvenile-court-terminology/

Pre-Disposition Report — A social history report to the court, which is prepared by probation and outlines the youth’s background and recommends a disposition plan; contains a compilation of information on the circumstances of the current offense, past offense(s), family history, educational progress, and community involvement. https://njdc.info/juvenile-court-terminology/

Raise the Age Law (New York State law) — As of 10/1/19, New York state has raised the age of criminal responsibility to age 18, and this legislation is commonly referred to as the “Raise the Age” law (RTA); the law also created the new Youth Parts and Adolescent Offender category.

  • The United States is the only country that sentences juveniles to life without parole for crimes committed before turning 18.
  • Raise the Age (RTA) | NY CourtHelp (https://www.nycourts.gov)

Reciprocity — When states acknowledge a person’s status in the justice system across state borders, such as acknowledging the terms of parole in a state other than the state in which the youth was convicted, and allowing them to complete parole in that state.

Record of Arrests and Prosecutions (RAP) — Record of all arrests, even if the charge was dismissed or the individual is found not guilty.

  • Many RAP sheets within NYS contain errors, so it is important for individuals to check them periodically for accuracy. Legal Action Center- Checking RAP for Accuracy

Re-Entry — The exiting of individuals from involuntary, out-of-home placement/involvement in one or more systems (adult or family court cases/oversight, child and family services, diversional, correctional, and alternative placement settings, etc.), and the effort to reintegrate them into their former setting (school, work/economic, home, and/or community) while also reducing the risk of recidivism through appropriate resources, services, and supports.

Re-Entry Services — “Efforts to re-engage youth with their former setting (school, home, and community), while also preparing them for future education, employment, independent living, and reducing the risk of recidivism through appropriate resources, services, and supports” (Saleh & Cook, 2020). The following information is from the New York State Office of Corrections and Community Supervision web page: https://doccs.ny.gov/re-entry-services

  • To facilitate a smooth transition for individuals returning home from prison, the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision’s (DOCCS) Re-entry Operations (REO) Unit works with DOCCS correctional facility and community supervision field staff.
  • REO also assists parole officers in providing certain returning citizens who have special needs with resource referrals for housing and specialized services, medical services, and mental health treatment.
  • DOCCS Re-Entry Services works with the New York State Department of Criminal Justice Services’ County Re-Entry Task Force offices to assist incarcerated individuals returning home with resource referrals for housing, substance abuse prevention services, anger management, domestic violence and mental health counseling, medical services, mentoring, employment, and a host of other services.
  • REO partners also work with other state agencies, county governments, and community-based organizations to develop referral sources for individuals returning home in need of these services.
  • To assist in stabilizing individuals who require additional guidance and support, REO works with community based organizations to develop and implement programs and services through Community Based Residential Programs (CBRP). It also awards and manages grant funds through Request for Applications to providers to help formerly incarcerated individuals successfully reintegrate back into society.

Recidivism — An individual’s relapse into criminal behavior after the person receives sanctions or interventions for a serious crime. (National Institute of Justice, https://nij.ojp.gov)

Rehabilitation — The extent to which a program is shown to reduce crime by “repairing” the perpetrator of a crime by addressing that individual’s needs and/or changing behavior. (Adapted from https://nij.ojp.gov)

Residential Treatment Center — Refers to any number of residential facilities for youth in both the juvenile justice and child welfare systems, including juvenile halls, detention centers, camps, emergency shelters, and group homes.

Restitution — The court orders the person who committed a crime to pay the victim back for a loss that happened because of the crime (e.g., medical bills, counseling costs, loss of salary or earnings, funeral expenses); limited to $1,500 for Juvenile Delinquents and $1,000 for Persons in Need of Supervision (PINS). (https://www.nycourts.gov)

Revocation/Violation Hearing — Hearing at which the state or supervisory agency alleges that the youth has not fulfilled or met conditions of their parole, probation, or pre-trial release. If this occurs, it may move the juvenile to some sort of out-of-home placement. https://njdc.info/juvenile-court-terminology/

Risk Assessment Instrument — Tool used to assess likelihood that youth will re-offend in the future. Items on these instruments can reflect both life circumstances (e.g. history of abuse) and personal characteristics (e.g. attitudes or past behaviors) that have been found to predict future problem behavior. May be used during diversion, detention, disposition, and other decision-making points. Briefer screening instruments (used to determine whether or not to detain a youth) usually consider more basic characteristics that are unchanging, such as current alleged offense or prior arrest history. More comprehensive instruments consider a broader range of risk factors, which can be used to guide treatment planning. https://njdc.info/juvenile-court-terminology/

Sealing Provision — Part of the Raise the Age legislation, the sealing provision provides certain individuals previously convicted of a crime with an opportunity to have their criminal record sealed. If they remain crime-free for 10 years, they can apply to have their record sealed. This does not apply to individuals who were convicted of two or more felonies, a sex offense, violent felony, or other serious felonies. (https://www.ny.gov/raise-age/raise-age-implementation#adolescent-offender)

Sex Offender Registry (SOR) — Registry maintained by the Division of Criminal Justice Services containing information about individuals convicted of sexual offenses (New York State Department of Labor, 2014, The Road to Re-Entry Guide)

There are two factors utilized to categorize sexual offenders:

  1. Risk level: Individuals convicted of sexual offenses are assigned a risk level from Level 1 (lowest risk of re-offense) to Level 3 (highest risk of re-offense)
    1. Level 1: Remains on the registry for 20 years; not published online, but is maintained in the sub-directory.
    2. Level 2: Remains on the registry for the lifetime of the individual; individual may petition to be removed from the registry after 30 years; published online.
    3. Level 3: Remains on the registry for the lifetime of the individual; published online.
      1. By law, individuals can petition to have their risk level modified.
      2. Being registered as an SOR does not place any limitation on living conditions (such as living near a school), but these restrictions are usually set by supervision conditions and no longer apply when the individual is no longer under supervision.
  2. Designation: Individuals are designated as a sexual predator, a sexually violent offender, or a predicate sex offender (more than two offenses).

Status Offense — Conduct that is considered unlawful when committed by a minor (because of his/her youthful status), but isn’t criminal when committed by an adult. Such offenses include running away, truancy, violating curfew, possession of tobacco, etc.

Transition — Disability-specific planning and programming efforts during justice involvement, such as those required by an IEP, while “reentry” is a broader term focusing on community reintegration planning, services, and programming, and including supports that help prevent recidivism.

Voluntary Placement — An out-of-home placement of a minor, by and with participation of a state agency, after the parents or guardians of the minor have requested the assistance of the agency and signed a voluntary placement agreement.

Waiver Hearing — A hearing to determine whether or not a youth’s case should be tried in adult criminal court, taking into consideration the youth’s age and seriousness of the offense.

Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) — Tax credit for businesses that hire individuals from target groups (includes ex-offenders), which allows the business to receive a tax credit for each eligible individual they hire. Must be hired within one year of release or conviction for tax credit to apply. For more information about this credit, visit Work Opportunity Tax Credit | Department of Labor (ny.gov).

Wraparound Services — A youth-guided, family-driven team planning process that provides coordinated and individualized community-based services for youth and their families to achieve positive outcomes.

Youthful Offender (New York State law) — Allows youth to avoid the consequences of a permanent criminal record. (https://www.nycourts.gov)

  • To be eligible, youth must be at least 14 and less than 19 years of age.
  • Court determines at sentencing whether or not to grant Youthful Offender status.
  • If Court grants it, criminal conviction is replaced by the Youthful Offender status and the youth will no longer have a criminal record.
  • Council of Children’s Rights. (2018). Juvenile justice glossary. https://www.cfcrights.org/juvenile-justice-glossary/

Identity-Related Terms

Gender Expression — How a person outwardly expresses gender.

Gender Identity — One’s internal sense of gender.

Intersectionality — Refers to recognition that a person’s social identities (related to race, gender, sexuality, age, etc.) can serve to advantage or disadvantage them in a given context, due to the perceived value of those identities in society. The term is used to emphasize the unique, everyday experiences of multiply marginalized people—those who have more than one identity that has historically been devalued—as they interact with systems that maintain the power of dominant or “privileged” groups. For example, the experiences of a Black woman with a disability in education, employment, health care access and other areas, will be very different from those of a White man, whether or not he has a disability, because of how Black people and females have historically been perceived and treated.

Marginalized Identities — Social identities that have historically been devalued and discriminated against. Examples include women, Black people, Indigenous people, other racial/ethnic minoritized people, non-English speakers, people with disabilities, and LGBTQIA+ community members. Intersecting marginalized identities can compound risk factors for justice involvement, particularly when disability intersects with other identities predictive of higher discipline or justice involvement, such as race and socioeconomic status (McCauley, 2017; Buckingham, 2013).

  • Resource for gender identity and expression terms: Movement Advancement Project. August 2020. "An Ally's Guide to Terminology: Talking About LGBTQ People & Equality." 2020 edition. MAP's Talking About LGBT Issues series. https://www.lgbtmap.org/allys-guide-to-terminology

Trauma-Related Terms

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) — Potentially traumatic events that occur in childhood (age 0–17). These include experiencing violence, abuse, or neglect, witnessing violence at home or in the community, or having a family member attempt or die by suicide. This can also include environmental factors that threaten the sense of safety, stability, or bonding of a child to adult caregivers. For example, environmental factors can include growing up in a household with substance abuse, mental health problems, and family instability due to parental separation or a household member being incarcerated. Research has shown that individuals with higher ACEs are at greater risk for chronic health problems, substance use problems, mental health conditions, and other problems in adulthood. https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/aces/fastfact.html

Complex Trauma — Exposure to multiple types of ongoing, pervasive traumatic events that involve violence, betrayal, exploitation, and loss. For example, this can include living in an unsafe family, school, or community settings. Complex trauma has the potential to disrupt bonds of attachment and trust in children and interfere with the development of positive relationships. https://www.nctsn.org/resources/glossary-terms-related-trauma-informed-integrated-healthcare

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