Date of Award

January 2021

Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Public Health (MPH)


School of Public Health

First Advisor

Alice MIller

Second Advisor

Danya Keene


Background/Introduction: There is a scarcity of studies in public health that investigate and address structural and political level factors, such as juvenile justice-related legislation and their implementation, and how they contribute to poor health outcomes and health inequities (i.e. by race/ethnicity and gender) in children and adolescents. By reviewing and analyzing the social and political context of juvenile justice and status offenses in the U.S. and Michigan and Michigan state legislation on status offenses, this narrative review aims to identify characteristics of status offense law that may contribute to the inequitable institutionalization of youth and perpetuate public health harms and health inequities.Methods: Guided by the definition of Public Health Law Research (PHLR), this narrative literature and legislative review had two main components: (1) a general search in Congressional Report Service and Nexus Uni databases using keywords to investigate the framing of juvenile justice and status offenses in U.S. and Michigan-based law reports/reviews and (2) a more targeted search and time-bound investigation of Michigan state legislature (bills and public acts) regarding juvenile justice and status offenses in Michigan state legislature’s digital archives. The results, 27 law reviews, reports, and articles and 17 Michigan bills and acts, were qualitatively analyzed to extract relevant themes. Results: Findings from both parts of the review yield four important themes: (1) the acknowledgment by federal and state legislation of disproportionate and/or specific ways of contact with certain youth populations (“vulnerable” youth, racial/ethnic minority youth, girls, and LGBT youth) via status offense laws, (2) the deeply interconnected nature of the juvenile justice, child welfare, and education systems, (3) the special legal considerations and policies that specifically address status offenses as a unique class of offenses, and (4) the important role of data collection on outcomes related to status offenders for funding of rehabilitative programs and monitoring inequities. Conclusion: Given the health implications of legal structures surrounding juvenile status offenders identified by this study, researchers should use these findings as potential frameworks for future research proposals that aim to study the public health impacts of status offense laws.


This is an Open Access Thesis.

Open Access

This Article is Open Access