Accountability Alternatives that Replace the Valid Court Order Exception

Policy Brief June 21, 2016

Prepared by members of the National Prevention Science Coalition: Shelby Hickman, Taylor Scott, Aaron Sawyer, & Robin Jenkins.

The authors would also like to acknowledge contributions from Jenna Ray, Dennis Embry, members from the Society for Community Research and Action and the National Prevention Science Coalition, and the Coalition for Juvenile Justice

This policy brief was created as part of the Research-to-Policy Collaboration. Below are the highlights and recommendations stemming from this brief, and the full text can be found here


  • Even though incarcerating low-level offenders is associated with poorer public safety outcomes, many status offenders are detained under a Valid Court Order (VCO).

  • Some states use the VCO to detain status offenders as an accountability mechanism when there are concerns that the youth won’t comply with court-ordered sanctions in the community.

  • Youth adherence to court-ordered interventions can be strengthened by involving multiple, key stakeholders (e.g., parents, schools), incentives for compliance, and delivering interventions in school or home settings.


  • Avoid using detention as a mechanism to hold status offenders accountable.

  • Engage pre-court diversion services when possible.

  • Involve key stakeholders in monitoring and service delivery with youth.

  • Reinforce therapeutic engagement with contingency management strategies.

  • Provide judges with options for school- and home-based approaches for sanctioning status offenders.

© 2020 by NPSC.

Questions/comments, contact: Jbair@c-trans.org