In 1994, juvenile crime was peaking in Community A and the surrounding communities with a detention rate of 25% for African American youth and 12% for White youth. The high visibility of juvenile crime promoted increasingly negative perceptions of juveniles by community residents. The electronic and print media were instrumental in perpetuating negative stereotypes of juveniles and other negative community opinions. Community reform was needed but difficult to achieve due to the law-and-order agenda of the local governmental leaders. Individuals wanting an overall reform effort to decrease juvenile crime and detentions were considered to be “soft” on crime. According to the 2000 census report, the population of Community A was approximately 670,000, of which more than 77% were classified as White, 6% African American, 6% Asian, and 8% Hispanic/Latino.
Community A’s overall population has shown significant increases over the previous 30 years. Twenty-two percent of the population of Community A was younger than age 18. The median household income was $41,000, with 13% of the population living below the poverty level.
In 1994, Community A developed a detention reform committee. This committee consisted of representatives from the minorities’ communities and elected officials. This culturally diverse group consisted of approximately 40 community stakeholders. After a series of planning meetings, committee members concluded the need to develop a juvenile justice system that would distinguish between high-risk youth and high-need youth. High-risk youth are considered those with a high potential to reoffend, and high- need youth are those youth with special emotional and behavioral needs.