To understand what deinstitutionalization of status offenses (DSO) is, we have to first understand what a status offense is. A status offense is an action that is illegal for a juvenile but would not be a crime if the person doing the action were an adult. Examples of status offenses are such things as curfew violation, truancy, and underage purchase of cigarettes.
With this in mind, we can understand what DSO means. DSO simply refers to the idea that status offenses should not cause a juvenile offender to be institutionalized. That is, a juvenile should not be put in juvenile detention or in a juvenile correctional facility. Instead, these offenders should be referred to other agencies that are not part of the juvenile justice system. DSO was mandated by law (the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act) in 1974.