In 2013, U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. announced the Obama administration’s intentions to reduce the population of the country’s prisons. The U.S. incarceration rate has been progressively increasing in recent decades, reaching a high in 2009 when 1,615,487 Americans were behind bars in federal or state prisons. Recent research indicates that longer, harsher prison sentences are not necessarily the most effective way to improve public safety and can come at staggeringly high costs.
Juvenile arrests specifically have demonstrated negative effects on educational and other outcomes for the youngest in the U.S. correctional system. The practice of putting minors in adult prisons has come under scrutiny in recent years. But how best to prevent youth from committing future crimes remains unclear. In a March 2014 paper, “First-Time Violent Juvenile Offenders: Probation, Placement and Recidivism,” published in Social Work Research, scholars Joseph P. Ryan (University of Michigan), Laura S. Abrams (University of California, Los Angeles), and Hui Huang (Florida International University) address this issue, asking whether secure confinement is effective at preventing future crimes. To answer this question, the authors compare rates of recidivism (re-offending, or committing another crime) among youths who were sentenced to (1) in-home probation; (2) group-home placement at a community-based facility; or (3) a probation camp, the most restrictive setting.
The paper primarily uses data from the Los Angeles County Department of Probation and the Department of Children and Family Services administrative records from 2003 to 2009. However, a difficulty with comparing recidivism rates among these three groups is that there could be factors other than the sentence affecting the likelihood of recidivism; those who committed the graver crimes and therefore received more restrictive punishments could have other qualities that make them more likely to commit additional crimes. To overcome this methodological challenge, the authors use a statistical technique called “propensity score matching,” where individuals in a certain group are compared to those in other groups with similar observable characteristics. If we assume that these observable traits (previous charges, welfare status, gender, race, etc.) are relevant predictors of how individuals are likely to behave, all other things being equal, the matching method can yield an estimate of treatment impact — in this case, the type of confinement.
Key findings from the study include:
- Rates of re-offending varied significantly relative to youths’ punishment and treatment: “Compared with in-home probation, the likelihood of recidivism was 2.12 times greater for youths assigned to probation camp and 1.28 times greater for youths assigned to group homes.”
- “Within the first year only, 13% of youths assigned to in-home probation experienced a subsequent arrest. Twice as many (26%) probation camp youths and 17% of group-home youths experienced a subsequent arrest within the same time period.”
- “At five years, 39% of in-home probation cases, 47% of group-home placements, and 65% of probation camp placements were associated with a new offense.”
- “Male youths are significantly more likely to recidivate [re-offend] as compared with female youths, and African American youths are significantly more likely to recidivate as compared with both Hispanic and white youths.”
- However, “African American and Hispanic youths were more likely to receive placement in either a probation camp or group-home setting as compared with white youths adjudicated for a similar offense.”
- Certain family-related factors were correlated with negative outcomes: “The risk of recidivism was 1.36 times greater for youths with an open child welfare case.”
Ryan, Abrams and Huang conclude: “The findings indicate that in-home probation is associated with a lower risk of recidivism for first-time violent juvenile offenders as compared with youths placed in group homes or assigned to a more secure setting such as a probation camp. This is an important finding because it helps the field identify effective and efficient strategies for interrupting criminal careers that do not disrupt important social bonds to family, peers and school.” The scholars also urge further empirical research using other measures that can cause recidivism.
Related research: For more on these topics broadly, see a January 2014 special issue of the Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, “Detaining Democracy? Criminal Justice and American Civil Life”; a 2013 study from the University of Chicago, “Does the ‘Community Prosecution’ Strategy Reduce Crime? A Test of Chicago’s Experience”; and a 2012 study from the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Chicago and Harvard, “Do Judges Vary in their Treatment of Race?”
Keywords: crime, youth, California
Citation: Ryan, Joseph P.; Abrams, Laura S.; Huang, Hui. “First-Time Violent Juvenile Offenders: Probation, Placement and Recidivism,” Social Work Research, March 2014, Vol. 38, No. 1. doi: 10.1093/swr/svu004.
Criminal Justice, Municipal, RaceCalifornia, crime, prisons, youth
My intended career is a juvenile probation officer and after exploring the criminal justice field a bit more it still is; however I am also interested in juvenile probation counseling. The two careers are very similar in which they both require a minimum of a Bachelors degree in criminal justice, social work, psychology or another closely related field. They also both call for work experience or volunteer work in places as a juvenile residential center, a group home, and a department of probation.
A juvenile probation officer supervises the juvenile that is placed on probation by regularly visiting the home and school, keeping in contact with the teachers child, and parents to ensure that the child is staying on track. Along with those duties, a juvenile probation officer must also submit documents to the court to update the status of the offender and recommendations on how the court should proceed. The job of a juvenile probation counselor is to make sure that the offender is provided with enough supervision. They also make recommendation to the court on behave of the placement of the offender, attend hearings, and meet with those who are apart of the juveniles rehabilitation process. Both careers, that of the juvenile probation officer and juvenile probation counselor have around the same average salary of about $45,000 per year and the outlook on both is that they should definitely continue to grow at a steady rate.
According to mymajors.com criminal justice is the scientific study and application of the law and natural sciences to the social phenomena of crime and delinquency. A criminal justice major focuses on providing definitions, prevention and rehabilitation of criminals and criminal activity in society. There is a growing need for resources that educate society about crime and thus the prevention of it. Criminal justice is such a broad major that there are many specializations within it. Some of them being in fields as criminal justice...