Growing Evidence for Link Between Experience in Detention and Recidivism in Teens

Young people in the juvenile justice system who have an overall positive experience are 49 percent less likely to continue committing crimes, according to arrest and/or return-to-placement reports.
Two recent research briefs, “What Youths Say Matters” [PDF] and “Reducing Isolation and Room Confinement,” [PDF] by the Performance Based Standards Learning Institute (PbSLi) suggest that there is a direct, and strong, link between the quality of a teen’s time in detention and their likelihood to commit new offenses:
The latest PbSLi brief, “What Youths Say Matters,” focuses on the recent study, Pathways to Desistance, which is regarded as the most comprehensive longitudinal study of youths in the juvenile justice system.
The Pathways researchers interviewed around 1,400 youths in Philadelphia and Phoenix over a seven-year period observing what makes youths continue—or stop—committing crimes.
This study demonstrated that teens’ experiences in custody impact their future choices. The two main conclusions of the report include the following:

  1. What youths say matters; youths tell us ways we can help prevent them from continuing to commit crimes; and
  2. Asking young people is a valid, cost-effective way to find out what we need to know to prevent future crime.

Soon after the release of the latest brief, The Council of Juvenile Correctional Administrators featured a short article by Kim Godfrey, the Executive Director of PbSLi, discussing the report as “another in the PbSLi series of translating research into practices and [advancing] our commitment to treat all youths in custody as one of our own.”
“After nearly 20 years asking questions to youths in secure residential programs…I realize that what youths say about their experiences in custody is essential to understanding the truth about what happens in juvenile facilities and provides crucial information needed to manage safe and healthy juvenile facilities.”
For more information on this issue, see our past reporting:

Cecilia Bianco is the social and digital communications intern for Prichard Communications and Mac’s List. She contributes to the Reclaiming Futures blog regarding topics of juvenile justice reform and substance abuse prevention.
*Image at top via Flickr user Marvin Lee

Updated: February 08 2018