Juvenile Court Judges’ Commission Releases Report on Young Offenders

HARRISBURG – The Juvenile Court Judges’ Commission has announced the release of Pennsylvania’s Juvenile Justice Recidivism Report, the first such comprehensive study conducted regarding young offenders in the state.

Recidivism, for the purposes of this study, 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.

The study was designed to create a recidivism benchmark against which to measure the effectiveness of Pennsylvania’s Juvenile Justice System Enhancement Strategy (JJSES), which seeks to employ evidence-based practices at every stage of the juvenile justice process, to collect and analyze the data necessary to measure the results of these efforts, and, with this knowledge, to improve the quality of decisions, services and programs throughout the juvenile justice system.

The core premise of the JJSES is that recidivism rates can be reduced through the implementation of evidence-based practices.

The report comes with a note of caution not to compare recidivism rates of individual counties or individual service providers due to the impact of expunged cases and varying risk assessment practices across the state during the period of the study.

The report was developed using juvenile court data received from county juvenile probation departments through the Commission’s Pennsylvania Case Management System, as well as criminal court conviction data provided by the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts.

Some of the major findings from the report include:

  • One in five juveniles (20 percent) recidivated within two years of their 2007 case closure.
  • Eighty percent of repeat offenders were from “disrupted” family situations (parents deceased, never married, separated/divorced), while only 20 percent of repeat offenders were from family situations where their biological parents were married.
  • The younger a juvenile was at the time of his or her first referral to juvenile court, the more likely he or she was to recidivate.
  • Males were almost three times more likely to recidivate than females.
  • One in five juveniles was either a “serious offender,” a “violent offender,” or a “chronic offender,” as defined by the study.
  • Overall, juveniles under supervision for sex offenses recidivated at a rate of 14 percent. About 2 percent of sex offenders committed another sex offense.
  • Drug offenders and property offenders were most likely to commit the same types of crimes when they re-offend.

The study was supported with funding from the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency and the Stoneleigh Foundation Emerging Leader Fellowship Program.

To view the full report, please visit www.jcjc.state.pa.us.

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