Study finds juveniles more likely to reoffend later if locked up

On behalf of Philip Nathe

In many communities throughout the nation, the knee-jerk reaction to someone doing something against the law is to lock them up. This regularly occurs in the Chicago area and is true whether the offender is 30, or 13. According to some sources, the rate of this activity is much higher in the United States than elsewhere in the world.

In many cases however, this reaction may actually be counterproductive. A study recently released by a former graduate student at the University of Chicago, takes issue with the effectiveness of such an action, particularly when the offender is a juvenile. The study was conducted using data from a total of 35, 000 young individuals who were accused of engaging in crimes in Chicago, over the course of a 10 year period, beginning in 1990.

Though designed to work as a deterrent against being further involved in criminal activities, the study determined that in actuality, it has the opposite effect.

More specifically, the researcher believes that incarcerating juveniles actually leads to an increase in crime. Statistics he gathered indicate that a person who is incarcerated as a juvenile is twice as likely to find himself of herself in a prison for adults by the age of 25. This may be due, in part, to the fact that once released from juvenile detention, only 2 percent of young people will return to school to get their high school diploma. This leaves many unsupervised teens who may feel that they have no option but to pursue a life of crime.

It is not a foregone conclusion that a young person who spends time in juvenile hall will face criminal charges again later in life. However, the correlation between the individuals at different ages is worth noting. While most would likely agree that it would be a good idea to do whatever is possible to reduce criminal behavior, including finding an effective way to deal with juvenile offenders.

Source: The Chicago Tribune, “Locking up juveniles may plant seeds of more crime,” Mary Schmich, July 17, 2013

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Study finds juveniles more likely to reoffend later if locked up