by Lauren Daley
The Juvenile Court Judges’ Commission released the first comprehensive study of youth offenders in the state.
Entitled Pennsylvania’s Juvenile Justice Recidivism Report, the study's goal was to create a "recidivism benchmark" to measure the effectiveness of the state's Juvenile Justice Enhancement Strategy. The idea behind the strategy, according to a press release from the state, is that "recidivism rates can be reduced through the implementation of evidence-based practices."
In the study, recidivism is defined as "a subsequent delinquency adjudication or conviction in criminal court for either a misdemeanor or felony offense within two years of case closure."
In 2007, cases were closed on 18,882 youth who had been under the supervision of a county juvenile probation. Within two years of that time, the study reports, 3,827 youth were subsequently adjudicated delinquent or convicted in criminal court for a new misdemeanor or felony offense. This equates to a 20% — or 1 in 5 — statewide recidivism rate.
According to findings, recidivism rates ranged from 0% (in Clinton and Sullivan Counties) to 45% (in Clarion County). In Allegheny County, the recidivism rate was 16%, with 1,603 juveniles with a case closed in 2007 and a total of 257 recidivists.
The study also notes that expunged cases "create a significant limitation" to the study because when a case is expunged in Pennsylvania "all of a juvenile’s identifying information pertaining to that case is 'erased' and is therefore not available for analysis." Allegheny County had 181 expunged cases.
Here are some other the findings from the report:
• One in five juveniles recidivated within two years of their 2007 case closure.
• 80% of repeat offenders were from “disrupted’’ family situations — situations where parents might be deceased, separate or divorced, or never married. Twenty percent of repeat offenders, meanwhile, were from families where the offender's biological parents were married.
• The younger a juvenile was at the time of their first referral to juvenile court, the more likely he or she was to recidivate.
• Youths under supervision for sex offenses recidivated at a rate of 14 percent. About 2 percent of sex offenders committed another sex offense.
• Boys are three times more likely to return to the system then girls.
• Drug offenders and property offenders were most likely to commit the same types of crimes when they re-offend.
To view the full report, please visit here.