04 October 2011

Juvenile Recidivism Stunningly High

A new think tank report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation states that juvenile recidivism rates are very high: "Within three years of release, roughly three-quarters of youth are rearrested; up to 72 percent, depending on individual state measures, are convicted of a new offense." Recidivism rates for adults released from prison tend to hover at rates a little under 50% in three years.

The report also describes other problems with the current system of juvenile incarceration. Juvenile corrections facilities are expense, juvenile inmates are often exposed to violence and abuse ("In nearly half of the states, persistent maltreatment has been documented since 2000 in at least one state-funded institution. One in eight confined youth reported being sexually abused by staff or other youth and 42 percent feared physical attack according to reports released in 2010."), and lowering juvenile confinement rates doesn't seem to increase crime rates ("States which lowered juvenile confinement rates the most from 1997 to 2007 saw a greater decline in juvenile violent crime arrests than states which increased incarceration rates or reduced them more slowly.")

The inverse relationship between juvenile violent crime rates and juvenile confinement coupled to high reoffense rates of incarcerated juveniles and a possible mechanism of abuse in these facilities suggest an "academy of crime" characterization of the facilities.

But, the high recidivism rates also suggest that alternative explanation that most states limit juvenile detention to the most dangerous individuals that the absence of a link to juvenile violent crime rates in states that reduced their juvenile incarceration rates may be due to better discrimination between high risk and low risk juveniles.

Hat tip to the Sentencing Law and Policy Blog.

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