Panel: New Evidence on the Effects of Juvenile Incarceration on Crime Deterrence and Individual Outcomes
(Crime, Justice, and Drugs)

Thursday, November 8, 2018: 1:45 PM-3:15 PM
Taylor - Mezz Level (Marriott Wardman Park)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Panel Chairs:  Shawn Bushway, State University of New York, Albany
Discussants:  Charles E. Loeffler, University of Chicago and Tom Loughran, Pennsylvania State University

Juvenile Crime and Anticipated Punishment
Ashna Arora, Columbia University

As a policy response to juvenile delinquency, incarceration has been criticized as ineffective, expensive, and often dangerous for youth. The majority of incarcerated youth are rearrested within three years of release, and many return to custody. Juvenile incarceration is also expensive, with average annual costs per youth many times the average annual costs of public school. Scandals in California, Texas, and New York shed a critical light on American juvenile facilities, uncovering abuse, persistently high recidivism rates and disproportionate representation of minority youth. Yet most research studies focus on the effects – and effectiveness – of the criminal justice system. Neuroscience research on brain development during adolescence has resulted in wide-spread recognition that juveniles process information and respond to situations differently than adults. Considering how juvenile sanctions affect the decision making and outcomes of youth is a key factor in assessing juvenile justice system effectiveness.

While studies of criminal justice system involvement suggest that incarceration might have criminogenic effects that outweigh reductions in crime due to deterrence, less is known about whether juvenile sanctions deter future crime in the population. Two of the papers on this panel present new, rigorous evidence of the deterrence effects of juvenile sanctions and estimates of the magnitude of deterrent effects.

For adults, factors that affect the likelihood of recidivism include the development of peer networks inside and outside of prison, substance abuse, and fewer opportunities for marriage which provides stability, support, and community (Visher & Travis, 2003). However being incarcerated, particularly at a young age, affects the likelihood that youth will make successful transitions to adulthood. The final two papers on the panel provide new evidence of the impact of juvenile incarceration on critical outcomes – academic effort, school dropout, and future offending – that are highly correlated with adult labor market participation, health, and well-being.

All four papers apply rigorous, quasi-experimental methods in criminology – regression discontinuity, instrumental variables, and panel difference-in-difference models. The panelists will discuss the results of the studies, policy implications for juvenile justice systems, and the advantages and disadvantages to the different estimation methods.

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