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Does formal processing reduce juvenile delinquency?

Juvenile system processing does not control crime, according to a new Campbell review. Justice practitioners have tremendous discretion when handling juvenile offenders who have committed minor crimes.  Police officers, district attorneys, juvenile court intake officers, juvenile and family court judges and other officials decide whether the youth should be "officially processed" by the juvenile justice system or diverted from the system to a program, counselling, other services - or simply released.  An important policy question is which strategy leads to the best outcome for juveniles.

When examining the impact of juvenile system processing and whether it reduces subsequent delinquency, the authors reviewed studies that included more than 7,300 juveniles across 29 experiments reported over a 35-year period.  Based on the evidence presented, not only does formal processing of juveniles appear not to control crime, it actually seems to increase delinquency - across all measures.

Given the additional financial costs associated with system processing - especially when compared to doing nothing - and the lack of evidence for any public safety benefit, the authors recommend jurisdictions review their policies regarding the handling of juveniles.

This article is based on the systematic review: Petrosino A, Turpin-Petrosino C, Guckenburg, S. Formal System Processing of Juveniles: Effects on Delinquency

Copyright 2010 by The Campbell Collaboration


The Crime Report has published an article about the review.


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