A Meta-Analysis of Juvenile Offenders Rehabilitation or Incarceration?

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AMeta-Analysis of Juvenile Offenders: Rehabilitation or Incarceration?

AMeta-Analysis of Juvenile Offenders: Rehabilitation or Incarceration?


Severalapproaches have been in use to help resolve the problem of seriousjuvenile crime. However, the modifiedjustice model (MJM),developed in the early 1990s is preferred by most jurisdictionswithin Western societies. The modified justice model recommendsprocessing youths within a formal judicial system, and sanctions varybetween rehabilitative and punitive (for example, incarceration,fines). Few exceptions like Scotland use the corporatistmodel,where juvenile offending is treated through integration into a largersocial service system (Mallet, Fukushima, Stoddard-Dare, &amp Quinn,2013).

Societiesusing the MJM express variability in their judicial process, althoughall ascertain legal protection for the juveniles. There is alsovariability in the extent of rehabilitative or punitive orientation.In the United States of America, many jurisdictions rely heavily onpunitive sanctions, like incarceration or community service (Ryon,Early, Hand &amp Chapman, 2013). In other instances, while punitiveapproaches may be available for serious offenses, emphasis is placedon rehabilitation designed to address juvenile criminogenic needs. The latter system is used in Canada under the guidance of the YouthCriminal Justice Act. Emphasis is placed on rehabilitationstrategies to address the risk of criminal activity among the youth,in spite of the availability of punitive sanctions (Mallet, et al.,2013).

Thischapter presents a review of past literature, on the effectivenessrehabilitation (treatment) and incarceration (restraint) inpreventing recidivism of USA legislature. The discussion uses bothquantitative and qualitative approaches in assessing availableknowledge about the confinement of juvenile. The quantitative studyinvolves analysis of existing data whereas the qualitative approachuses systemic reviews. The discussion that follows reviews therelationship between confinement and offending for serious juvenilecrimes through systemic review of prior studies. The question on theeffectiveness of previous corrective measures as compared toincarceration for those convicted of serious offenses. The analysisindicates the necessity for further research through meta-analysisand systematic review of experimental research.

JuvenileOffending and Sentencing in Numbers

Accordingto Bachman &amp Shutt (2014) violence among the youth iscontinuously an interesting research topic with formidable debatesabout the effectiveness of the juvenile system of justice forpractitioners in criminal justice. As a result of the currentdisparities discovered during the literature review in the juvenilejudicial system, discuss on whether or not to build newinfrastructure, but the new crime rates are clear for all to see andmake a suggestion (Ryon et. al., 2013). The US is world’s numberone in juvenile incarceration, yet the rate of crime is shown to havedecreased significantly over the last two decades. Data compiled bySickmund &amp Puzzanchera (2014) from multiple sources of governmentdata reports that the rate of crime among juveniles decreasedsignificantly between 2001 and 2010. Homicide rates declined by 18%,and violent crimes went down 12%. 2012 had the lowest number ofreported cases since 1980. Sickmund &amp Puzzanchera (2014) alsoreported a rise in the rate of imprisonment for violent crimes higherthan other offenses in the year 2009. Gang-related homicides arealso reported as being high, increasing by over 10% between 2009 and2010. However, the number of juveniles in placement reduced by 34 %between 1999 and 2010. The number of new offenses also decreased at asimilar rate. Categorically, the statistics showed that approximately7,600 juveniles were confined in adult prisons in 2010 as compared to2, 000 two decades earlier translating to an average of 3% perannum. Sickmund &amp Puzzanchera (2014) research asserts thatcriminal justice systems are still using incarceration as a form ofsanctioning for juvenile offenders regardless of data indicating morejuveniles in adult facilities and few in juvenile rehabilitationfacilities.

In2011, Mears, Cochran, Greenman, Bhati, &amp Greenwald conductedresearch in juvenile justice and asserted that confinement in securefacilities does not inhibit future engagements in criminalactivities. The study reviewed other prior literature on theeffectiveness of juvenile sanctions and concluded that facilities arefunded and can be either privately funded, county-managed, or statemanaged. Juvenile placements are also referred to as camps, youthservices, training schools, residential facilities, academies,institutes or correctional facilities. The report indicates thatyouths can be transferred between placements or can be sentenced to ajuvenile facility and later transferred to adult facility uponattainment of 18 years, depending on the sentence. However measuringthe actual impact of transfer from juvenile to adult facility is noteasy because of the independence in sentencing. Mears and hiscolleagues indicate that a relationship exists between juvenileincarceration and recidivism (Mears, et al., 2011).

Recentcensus data show that there are over 75 million juveniles in the US(Baglivio, Epps, Swartz, Huq, Sheer, &amp Hardt, 2014). This numbersare alarming and call for a quick course of action to findsustainable solutions that will help minimize recidivism. Accordingto Baglivio et al., (2014) the implementation of variousrehabilitation methods will result in a reduction in the number ofoffenses.

Fewstudies have examined confinement and juvenile offending, andcompared incarceration to other alternatives and diversion programs. More recently, Ryans, Abrams &amp Huang (2014) carried out ameta-analysis to understand the juvenile treatment by investigatingthe effectiveness of criminal sanctions and correctional treatment onjuvenile recidivism. Ryan’s study reviewed statistical data fromdelinquency records, child welfare data and administrative records inLos Angeles County. The study found that “13% of probation caseswere associated with a new offense, 17% of group home cases wereassociated with a new offense, and 26% of camp cases were associatedwith a new offense” (Ryans, et al., 2014, p. 13). The percentageincreased in five years to 39 % for in-home cases, 47 % for grouphome cases, and 65% for camp cases. It was concluded that thatin-home placement was more successful and more cost-effective atreducing the risk of recidivism for violent juvenile offenderscompared to confinement. Furthermore, males were found to be morelikely to be involved in crime that females and African Americansmore likely than Whites and Hispanics (Ryans, et al., 2014). Thefollowing discussion examines the effectiveness of a variety ofapproaches used to address the issue of serious juvenile crime.

Rehabilitationor Incarceration for Juveniles Convicted of Serious Offenses


Rehabilitationof juvenile offenders involves processes that mitigate the risk ofyouth crime for convicted juveniles. This section reviews literatureconcerning rehabilitation strategies. Two strategies, popular withinthe United States are discussed: residential placement and bootcamps.

Effectivenessof residential placement. Residentialplacements are correctional facilities for juvenile offenders, andmany resemble incarceration with some having bars. The NationalCenter for Juvenile Justice, states that “residential facilitiesfor juveniles can vary in facility type ranging from home likeplacements to adult-like prisons” (Sickmund &amp Puzzanchera,2014). A study conducted by the Virginia Department of JuvenileJustice indicated that geographic location influenced the rate ofjuvenile offending. Urban areas were ranked highest and suburbanareas ranking lowest. It was concluded that several uncontrollablefactors affect the study, such as the availability of probation andmental facilities, the differences in the rates of offense could notbe attributed to any particular cause (Hockenberry, 2013).

Effectivenessof Boot Camps. Bootcamps like the Michigan Nokomis Challenge Program were designed toaccommodate juvenile needs “for a fixed length of time to respondto social and behavior skills that begin with a short-termresidential stay in a rural wilderness area with intensive treatmentservices for the next nine months” (Hockenberry, 2013). Theoriginal design of correctional boot camps was styled around militarytraining in 1973 by George Cadwalader “as a sentencing outcome foryoung adult offenders” (Elrod &amp Ryder, 2014). Their popularityincreased in the 1990s during the “get tough” juvenile trend.Boot camps are different to correctional facilities in thattreatment involves strict schedules, exercise, physical labor, dailywork, and shock incarceration (Hockenberry, 2013).

Severalstudies have focused on boot camps, but few have focused on theireffectiveness to reducing juvenile crime. The California YouthAuthority (CYA) has attracted a lot of attention owing to its highernumber of violent crimes among its juvenile offenders. According toHockenberry (2013) a2005 study by Bottcher and Ezell, at the CYA,concluded that ‘“boot camps are ineffective as correctionaltreatment”’ (p. 35). However, boot camp juveniles are lesslikely to commit new crimes as compared to prison juveniles(Hockenberry, 2013).

Incarcerationof Juvenile Offenders

Formore than three decades now, the meta-analysis design has beenutilized to measure dependent variables of juvenile offendingresulting from various independent variables. However, the studiesonly focused on the programs and not on the placement, and most nevercovered serious juvenile crimes (Hockenberry, 2013).

Morerecently, deVries, Hoeve, Assink, Stams and Asscher (2015) conducteda meta-analysis study reviewing literature on the impact ofprevention programs on juvenile recidivism and reported thatmulti-systematic therapy approaches utilized in placement programsare helpful in the reduction of recidivism rates. Moreover, atargeted prevention program for persistent young offenders was foundto reduce recidivism by 13% (de Vries et al. (2015).The study alsodiscovered that mental disorders are higher for incarceratedoffenders (65%) than juveniles during intake (35%) or for juvenileswho remain in the community program (15%).

BlendedSentence on Juvenile Offending

Ablended sentence is a sentence applied to the most serious andviolent juvenile offender who meet court requirements for waiver. Thesentence requires that the juvenile offender upon attaining the ageof 18 years gets transferred to an adult prison for the conclusion ofthe criminal sentence (Haerle, 2014 Trulson, Caudill, Haerle &ampDeLisi, 2012). Research indicates that courts use this sanction toconcurrently rehabilitate and punish juvenile offenders (Haerle,2014 Trulson et al., 2012). The studies focused on theeffectiveness of blended sentencing on juvenile offending.

Trulsonet al. (2012), studied the recidivism rates on a sample of 1,804serious and violent male offenders following incarceration. Thesemales had been spared the adult portion of blended sentencing in aJuvenile Correctional System (JCS) in a southern area. In the systemunder study, the use of blended sentencing is routinely used forviolent juveniles where they serve the first portion of theirsentence in a juvenile facility and then are transferred to adultprison at the age of 18 for the remainder of their sentence.

Haerle(2014) conducted a study of incarcerated juvenile offenders and theeffects of rehabilitation on recidivism rates when blended sentencingis the sanction. The data used in the study was collected by a statethat utilized blended sentencing for crimes identified by thelegislature as severe the juvenile must be convicted on one of the30 identified criminal offenses (Haerle, 2014). Haerle (2014)compared two groups of serious juvenile offenders according to the“dose” (length) of intensive treatment administered during thejuvenile incarceration portion of a blended sentence. After studyingthe rates of recidivism after three years of release fromincarceration, Haerle (2014) concluded that a strong dose oftreatment reduces the risk significantly of recidivism for violentjuveniles compared to a low dose or no dose at all.

RiskFactors Associated with Common Juvenile Offences

Asa result of the in-depth database search for this literature review,studies were found that researched the impact of contextual riskfactors such as environment, age at offense, education, parentingskills, psychosocial development, and prior criminal behavior on theeffectiveness of incarceration on serious juvenile offending.Petitclerc, Gatti, Vitaro, and Tremblay (2013) Mulvey and Schubert(2012) completed quantitative research on serious juvenile offenders.

Thereare contextual risk factors that can contribute to or impede theeffectiveness of sanctions on offending. Petitclerc et al. (2013)focused on the relationship between recidivism and correctionalincarceration of serious juvenile offenders by using self-reportedbehaviors like alcohol/drug use, delinquency, antisocial behavior,and any exposure to juvenile court to help explain the rate ofreoffending in young adulthood and later in life. Petitclerc et al.(2013) began with a sample of 1,037 males from low socioeconomicareas during 1984 in Montreal. From this sample, they formed thecontrol group comprised of juveniles who were arrested but neverordered to appear in court and the exposed group that did appear injuvenile court between the ages of 12 and 17, totaling 225participants. Petitclerc et al. (2013) found that the exposed groupafter reaching adulthood had three times the risk of a conviction inadult court by age 25 and committed as much as twice as many violentand non-violent offenses as the control group. Petitclerc et al.(2013) also found that juveniles are more likely to continue theircriminal behavior following formal processing in the court instead ofan alternate outcome. The results also indicated that futurecriminality could be diverted if rehabilitation was utilized moreroutinely for all delinquent behavior including violent acts and ifemphasis was placed on the needs of juveniles instead of on “thenature of their offense” (Petitclerc et al., 2013, p. 295).

Expandingupon prior results or replicating a prior study is one wayresearchers validate outcomes and results. Mulvey and Schubert (2012)used secondary data collected during The Pathways to Desistance studythat followed serious juvenile offenders over the course of 7 yearsfrom November 2000 through January 2003. According to Mulvey andSchubert (2012), the sample used in the Pathways study included 1,170males and 184 females (1,354) serious juvenile offenders between theages of 14 and 18. They explained that the study consisted of atwo-site longitudinal design that studied multiple factors, includingbackground characteristics, individual functioning, psychosocialdevelopment, personal and family relationships, and offendingbehavior (Mulvey &amp Schubert, 2012). Other studies have used thesame data for their purposes of research, and one such study isincluded above. According to Mulvey and Schubert (2012), thejuveniles varied among the number of previous court referrals with anaverage of 3 and as few as 0. Mulvey and Schubert (2012) found thateven though this sample of juveniles reported a high level ofcriminal behavior, juveniles reduce their offending as they matureinto early adulthood regardless if they are incarcerated, diverted,placed in community corrections, etc. The results indicated thatjuveniles placed on community probation and those placed inconfinement had the same rates of post-placement arrests.Additionally, “analyses of the effects of different lengths ofinstitutional placement showed no reduction in arrest or reportedantisocial behavior from longer stays” (Mulvey &amp Schubert,2012, p. 418).

Mulderet al. (2011) also focused their research on risk factors from asample of 728 serious juvenile offenders using the measurementinstrument, the Juvenile Forensic Profile. This tool consists of anassessment of 70 risk factors. The sample for the study originatedwith male juveniles adjudicated and committed to confinement in theNetherlands between the ages of 12 to 22 at the time of commitmentand most had committed more than one offense with no evidence ofspecialization. The results of their study found a rate of overallrecidivism of 79.9% with 62.9% committing violent offenses aftertreatment. Mulder et al. (2011) identified several significantly highstatic risk factors such as “age at time of offense, unknown victimof past offenses, and poor parenting skills during childhood” (p.124). The number of past offenses was the highest negativerelationship with recidivism. Among the dynamic risk factors, mostprevalent were criminal peer association, increased number ofbehavioral incidents during placement, lack of treatment compliance,and positive coping skills. Consequently, the results also indicatedless prevalent factors associated with recidivism such as anysymptoms of depression or psychosis, alcohol and substance addiction,or gambling.

LiteratureReview Conclusion

TheOffice of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) (n.d.),as a part of the United States Department of Justice, maintains aguide to model programs that is accessible to administrators, policymakers, practitioners, and the public in order to compare programs ontype of services provided and the outcomes of success. The guide“contains information about evidence-based juvenile justice andyouth prevention, intervention, and reentry programs” (OJJDP, n.d.,para. 1) and allows criminal justice practitioners and administratorsto search through the index of programs for comparisons and programinformation. The guide uses expert reviews to evaluate and report onall the programs included in the index. The programs are categorizedaccording to the level of supervision and services provided. Of the24 programs included under the heading Detention, Incarceration, andSupervision, the top six receiving a review of effective were allcommunity-based programs (OJJDP, n.d.). There were no effectivesanctions listed that included incarceration. This research on theeffectiveness of incarceration and rehabilitation decreases the gapin missing outcomes.

Theresults from the studies included in this literature reviewdemonstrate a relationship between juvenile incarceration andrecidivism. As this literature review shows, there are numerousreports, articles, and studies showing that confinement for juvenileoffenders is not beneficial or a deterrent at reducing futureoffending behaviors. This review indicates that the “get tough”policies of the judicial system do not impact juvenile offending, andas indicated by the many studies discussed in this analytic review,confinement in a secure facility does not deter future criminalbehavior (Mears et al., 2011). This dissertation expands upon thestudies on the effects of incarceration on juvenile offending.

Theanalysis also indicates a lack of research available that usesmeta-analysis methods on studies establishing a relationship betweenjuvenile recidivism rates and juvenile incarceration. Importantly,during the period since the last located systematic review andmeta-analysis on violent juveniles, (Sickmund &amp Puzzanchera,2014).), all types of juvenile offending have declined includingviolent offending however, incarceration is still used as a sanctionfor juveniles (Sickmund &amp Puzzanchera, 2014). Additionally, therehas been an increase in the number of juveniles in adultincarceration that consequently, increases the overall numberincarcerated (Mauer &amp Epstein, 2012 Sickmund &amp Puzzanchera,2014).

Chapter3 will describe the method for this study that makes a significantcontribution to the research and literature on the effectiveness ofincarceration on juvenile recidivism by focusing on a topic that hasreceived little analytical attention. de Vries et al. (2015) supportsthe need for further research that this dissertation serves, with itscontribution to the gap in research and the recommendations toincreasing programming concentrated on reducing serious juvenilecrime.

Althoughprior research findings do agree that incarceration does not reducereoffending by juveniles, research indicates little agreement on whatworks to reduce juvenile offending and control crime, possibly due tothe inadequacies of using single studies as the basis for thatassumption. A systematic review on what works to reduce recidivismanalyzes many studies together, showing the magnitude of anystatistical relationship. This study closes that gap in juvenilejustice research by adding credibility to the current studies,expanding on the research and allowing other researchers theopportunity to replicate and validate these findings.


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