Juveniles and Reduced RecidivismResearch Proposal

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Reducing Recidivism Among Juveniles

Research topic and its importance

This study focuses on modern juveniles, aka court-referred youth, within the justice system. An individual who engages in illegal or proscribed activities, banned by federal, state, and/or local codes, is defined as a juvenile delinquent (Granville, 2007). The matrix of authorities involved in the juvenile correction system include the Department of Juvenile Corrections, the police, probation, prosecutor, court, and detention (Nissen, 2006). From a historical perspective, the intent of the juvenile justice system has been to prefer rehabilitation vs. punitive measures such as incarceration (Granville, 2007). This general consensus is founded upon the premise that juvenile offenders, as individuals lacking adult cognitive development and understanding, are not wholly responsible for their illegal actions (Binder, 1988).

B. Paper Overview

The topic of the paper revolves around the efforts required to reduce the levels of recidivism amongst Juveniles. The paper thus tackles the topic by dividing the paper into different sections. The first section is introduction which introduces the research topic and why the topic is important; provides an overview of the paper; provides a review of the literature; and states the research problem. The second section then tackles with methods where we describe the nature of the study; discuss how the study was conducted; describe the choice of organization; and the selection of stakeholder. The third section, results, highlights the findings of the research; whether the research results confirm hypothesis or research question; and whether or not they caused us to modify or reject the hypothesis or research question. The final section focuses on discussion and includes a thorough analysis and interpretation of the study's results; reasons for the findings; meanings of the findings mean; and general conclusions.

C. Review of the Literature

As stated by the Australian Institute of Criminology (2011) the term 'recidivism' (from the Latin 'recidere', to fall back), is used when an individual reverts to criminal behavior after going through the legal process of conviction, sentencing and correction. Juvenile recidivism has been shown by previous research to be linked to a variety of factors ranging from family (functional or dysfunctional), age, peer relationships, legal history, and educational history.

Criminological research literature varies with respect to the element chosen as the marker for recidivism: this may be a new court appearance, or it may be a re-arrest. As proxy for recidivism, various elements correlating with aspects of the criminal justice system can be followed, viewing interactions with justice as a continuum from initial apprehension by the police to repeat incarceration. Self-survey instruments are also used to determine recidivism levels. For example, youthful offenders are surveyed concerning their levels of re-offense following criminal justice programs and/or custody. The self-survey instruments attempt to gather 'genuine' data on recidivism through requesting that respondents openly disclose any illegal activity, regardless of whether it has resulted in action from the justice system. While an advantage to self-surveys is that one need not measure recidivism by proxy, obviously self-surveys must be considered to be limited, because they rely on both the offender's willingness to be honest about illegal activities, and upon the offender's memory of illegal events. As expected, the prevalence of re-offense is underestimated in studies using the self-survey method. According to the Australian Institute of Criminology (2011), the absence of recidivism is considered to be 'a valid and efficient outcome indicator' for the success of any intervention program for juveniles.

Both dynamic and static risk factors are a part of the juvenile criminal recidivism. Dynamic risk factors are amenable to change (Bonta, 1996), such as through therapy or rehabilitative treatment; on the contrary, static risk factors appear to be immutable characteristics. While both dynamic and static risk factors are further sub-divided into environmental and individual components, this report focuses only on the literature addressing individual risk factors. Static risk factors for juvenile recidivism include age of first arrest, age of first adjudication and age of initial delinquent behavior. While 'personality' types (dispositions) as factors for crime have been discounted by some, others find a correlation. Psycho-social and personality factors have been reported to correlate with juvenile recidivism. Psychological assessment data have been used to evaluate the effects of focus on psychological areas on recidivism rates. Self-esteem levels have been shown to impact the juvenile's ability to block impulses towards criminal behavior (Benda 2001). Adult criminality as well as juvenile recidivism has been related to a dynamic risk factor known as 'impulsivity'. As well, social bonding is correlated with juvenile involvement in criminal activity. Personal and peer attitudes that are pro-criminality correlate consistently with recidivism, particularly with respect to sexual offenses (Chui & Chan, 2012).

As the involvement of juveniles in crime rose in the '80's, the legal system shifted towards programs that were sanction-based, concomitantly with absorption of adolescents into the justice system for adults, and the meting of harsher sentences (Latzman, 2008 - not in ref list). As stated by Lipsey & Cullen (2007) prevention of youth from additional criminal activities was the motivating factor in a punitive philosophy utilizing punishment as a method of deterrence. Recently, the use of harsh methods in dealing with juveniles has been questioned, particularly given that the juvenile crime rate has not continued to rise. In general, only negative outcomes on recidivism have been found in research on approaches such as drug testing, 'tough love', restitution, intensive supervision, fines, supervision, boot camp, and arrest or detention. In contrast, the research on counseling approaches to recidivism has been limited (Lancaster et al., 2011).

Work of community agencies with court-referred youth

Both psychological and criminal justice fields of study are the predominant source of the analysis of juvenile corrections to date. Juvenile justice corrections are approached from two potentially antithetical directions, rehabilitative vs. sanction-based (Lipsey & Cullen, 2007). Rehabilitation programs focus on instilling lasting behavioral changes through training in methods to subvert negative behaviors, assisting juveniles with development of social skills, and facilitation of personal growth. In contrast, reduction of recidivism via sanction-based programs utilizes fear of consequences and aversive programs (Steinberg, 2009).

Among the general population of juveniles, there are certain predictors of those likely to indulge in criminal behavior. Predictors of repeated offenses, offense severity and judicial disposition (incarceration, diversion, or prosecution) were studied by Barrett, Katsiyannis, and Zhang (2010). Correlating factors include (1) adverse family experiences, (2) age at first arrest, (3) drug use, and (4) ethnicity.

Adverse Family Experiences: Recidivism is associated with family experiences that are less than positive. The social characteristics and patterns of both the family and the child may be predictors of delinquency (Lipsey & Derzon, 1998). There is a four-fold higher likelihood that foster care experience will result in early delinquency relative to those children with stable home environments. Early-onset of delinquency is twice as likely to occur when a family member has been convicted of a felony. Farrington et al. (2001) found that 43% of all arrests came from only 8% of families in a three-generation study. Future violent behavior has also been associated with childhood abuse, whether neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse, or emotional abuse (Hoeve et al., 2009).

Age at First Arrest and Ethnicity: First, there is a clear correlation between age at first arrest and recidivism. The rate of recidivism is also impacted, and/or predicted, by ethnicity. As reported by Dalun et al. (2011), data for the year 2006 revealed a higher proportion of African-Americans involved in juvenile crimes. As many as 31% of property crimes and 51% of violent crimes were committed by African-American youths, who represent only 17% of the total population of juveniles (Snyder, 2008). While African-American juveniles were only 38% of juveniles in custody, the total minority offenders reported by Snyder and Sickmund (2006) was 61% of incarcerated juveniles.

Drug Use: There is a strong correlation between juvenile recidivism and drug use, as shown by Niarhos and Routh (1992), who studied court and assessment records for 234 juvenile males. Their data indicated that recidivism significantly correlated with drug use, and could be used as a predictor for recidivism. As reported by the Office of Applied Studies (2003), comparative rates of drug use for juvenile delinquents is three-fold greater than that of the total juvenile population, and it is generally the case that non-delinquent youths are less involve in drug use than delinquent youths (Dembo, Wareham, & Schmeidler, 2007). Recidivism rates are higher for juveniles with a history of drug use as compared with juveniles who do not use drugs; early use of substances also is correlated with a greater involvement in chronic illegal behavior and more severe offenses (Belenko, 2006).

Reduction of crime can be impacted by both family- and community-based programs. Self-improvement programs, focused upon both the families and the juvenile have a clear effect. Early intervention and support have been shown to be key elements, with a primary focus on youth who are at risk and their families. Optimal outcomes occur when both youths and families participate in a program having long-term planning and goals, although these programs are… [END OF PREVIEW]

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