In the field of criminal justice, recidivism is among the fundamental concepts that all scholars and practitioners ought to understand. The concept is associated with an offender’s tendency of relapsing into criminal behavior mostly after the individual is imposed with sanctions or is required to go through intervention procedures. The aspects that measure recidivism include re-arrests, return to prison, or reconviction. In the US, the issue of juvenile delinquency is common as depicted by news coverage regarding theft, burglary, and murder among other serious delinquencies. However, the mainstream media lacks to provide substantial information concerning what the criminal justice is collaborating with the juveniles to curtail recidivism and improve rehabilitation of the delinquents.
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The rate of juvenile recidivism in the US is not known due to the varying juvenile justice systems throughout the states. Regardless of the different justice systems, the problem of recidivism poses threats to the efficiency of the criminal justice systems in the US. Therefore, the process of mitigating the repeat of criminal behavior among minors necessitates an analysis of the factors that trigger the criminal justice issue. For this reason, this paper seeks to delve into the underlying factors for juvenile recidivism by carrying out a literature review that would be supported by a theoretical framework to foster the understanding of the issue. Further, the media’s role in addressing the issue would also be assessed. Moreover, the paper would evaluate the local, national, and global efforts put in place to mitigate juvenile recidivism before providing the recommendations.
Various scholars and interested parties have delved into the subject of juvenile recidivism with the aim of exploring and explaining its diverse aspects as a criminal justice issue. Since the issue is not only limited to national scope but also to the global domain, analyzing the vast resources on the topic is essential.
An article by Mulder, Brand, Bullens, and van Marle (2011) entitled “Risk Factors for Overall Recidivism and Severity of Recidivism in Serious Juvenile Offenders” provides an insightful documentation of the triggers that propel juvenile recidivism. The authors categorically identified factors that contribute to the upsurge of a repetition of juvenile delinquency. Mulder et al. (2011) suggest that static and dynamic risk influences contribute to recidivism in minors whereby, the former cannot be changed while the latter can be altered through intervention. Individual and environmental risk issues constitute the static aspect of the causes of juvenile recidivism.
Individual risk factors that are static include neuropsychological features and intelligence, gender, early age development of criminal behavior, first conviction at a young age, and intensity and length of delinquent criminal behavior. On the other hand, the dynamic risk factors affiliated to the environment include an array of personality attributes. The risk factors constitute of a minor’s diagnosis with a behavior disorder, substance abuse, and psychiatric traits that could deteriorate to criminal behavior (Mulder et al., 2011).
Further, Mulder et al. (2011) identify physical maltreatment, parental neglect, the existence of a protection and care order, and conflicts with parents as the static risk factors associated with the environment. According to Mulder et al. (2011), the dynamic risk factors tied to the environment include a deprived economic and social environment, residing in an impoverished neighborhood, and association with truancy and delinquent peers. Furthermore, the authors identified a low rate of the severity of recidivism among juvenile sex offenders.
The efficacy of policies regarding the management of juvenile recidivism could necessitate an inquiry for evaluation. The article, “The influence of sex offender registration on juvenile sexual recidivism”, by Letourneau, Bandyopadhyay, Sinha, and Armstrong (2009) provides an assessment of the efficiency of registration mechanism concerning juvenile offenders. The study unearthed that the assumption that the strict registration of sexual offenders could result in inefficiency since most juveniles commit sex offenses as their first delinquent acts thus, allow them to recidivate on other crimes like burglary and theft.
Further, the affected communities in the different states lack access to the registers, and thus they are not fully capable of preventing a repetition of such crimes (Letourneau et al., 2009). Additionally, an increase in the number of repeated sexual offences committed by minors could imply that the scrutiny regarding such cases has intensified through the joint efforts of the security enforcers and the community. Thus, the registration depicts the advantages of a policy regarding effective information management. In this regard, the policies about juvenile criminal justice systems ought to improve the efficacy aspect for the reduction of juvenile recidivism.
Katsiyannis, Ryan, Zhang, and Spann (2008) argue that the academic performance of a juvenile in their educational endeavors could trigger their likelihood of engaging in recurrent delinquency. Regarding behavioral sciences like Sociology, the inquiry of identifying the association between academic success and juvenile crimes regards consideration for attaining a secure environment. Thus, Katsiyannis et al. (2008), in their article “Juvenile Delinquency and Recidivism: The Impact of Academic Achievement” emphasize that poor academic performance has the potential of leading to the development of criminal behavior. In this essence, the poorly performing children and young adults would seek to portray their “excellence” in other fields thereby, some of them ending up to committing the crime.
Besides, Katsiyannis et al. (2008) suggest that the onset of early behavioral issues could evoke poor academic results. Consequently, the cycle repeats itself and in the adverse situations, it manifests in juvenile criminal cases that are aired regularly by the mainstream media. The considerable correlation between undesirable academic performance and the tendency of juvenile delinquency unearths the loopholes that exist within the educational agents of socialization. In this light, failure of the educational system to instill the acceptable norms and values in the juvenile population could significantly lead to an increase in youth criminal activities and recidivism.
The article “First-Time Violent Juvenile Offenders: Probation, Placement, and Recidivism” provides an insight into the results of corrective measures on recidivism as shown by the arguments of Ryan, Abrams, and Huang (2014). The authors sought to evaluate whether secure confinement of juvenile criminals would curb the recurrence of their engagement in crime. The research findings depicted that the kind of treatment or punishment the youth receives considerable accounts for their likelihood of reoffending.
In this respect, the youth offenders confined in-group homes, and probation camps record a recidivism likelihood of 1.28 and 2.12 times higher than youth treated through in-home probation programs. Further, the deviant youths under the in-home probation program showed a 13% chance of committing subsequent crimes after the first year. Additionally, the chances for the camp and group home youths to recidivate after the first year of probation stood at 26% and 17% respectively. Therefore, the in-home probation strategy depicts efficacy in mitigating youth recidivism in various states in the US.
The tendency of African American youth to recidivate could also arise due to the different treatment applied to them in some cases as compared to the White and Hispanic offenders (Ryan et al., 2014). Reports depict that Hispanic and African American youths penalized for a similar crime committed by a White juvenile would experience a different probation treatment for the former would be considered for the in-home while the later for the group home or camp placement.
Moreover, Ryan et al. (2014) found out that cases of recidivism in male offenders were higher as compared to the female delinquents. Thus, a gender approach to the problem depict variations in male and female juvenile offenders’ re-offending possibilities necessitating the inquiry on the underlying differences. Significant, negative results regarding recidivism among the youths portray that family-related factors like open child welfare issues have great implications on the behavior of the youth.
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Concerning the influence of restorative justice on juvenile recidivism, the article “Restorative justice dialogue: The impact of mediation and conferencing on juvenile recidivism” comprehensive provides information concerning the suitability of intervention efforts in curtailing the problem. Thus, Bradshaw and Roseborough (2005) argue that the traditional rehabilitation and the retributive approaches to juvenile justice systems result in different reactions by the delinquents.
In this case, the retributive approach creates high chances of the youth offenders to repeat delinquent acts due to several factors. Notably, the educational and occupational opportunities for delinquents diminish due to the effects of victimization thus, triggering recidivism (Bradshaw & Roseborough, 2005). Conversely, unlike the retributive approach, the rehabilitative technique purposes on the treatment of the minor to correct their behavior and prevent its re-occurrence in future.
However, the restorative approach to juvenile justice endeavors could considerably mitigate recidivism since it actively engages all the stakeholders for sustainable solutions. In this regard, the absence of dialogue, accountability, and reparation as the key elements of the restorative approach would not raise the likelihood of the delinquents to maintain their behavior. Therefore, the need for dialogue is crucial for the victims to express openly their emotions and respond to the questions concerning the crime they committed.
Additionally, Bradshaw and Roseborough (2005) observed that when the juvenile suspects assume accountability, they positively contribute to the efficiency of the reparation process. For the purpose of improving the restorative justice system to mitigate juvenile recidivism, the authors suggest that the three types of initiative that include victim-offender mediation (VOM), peacemaking circles, and family group conferences enhance the efficiency of the juvenile criminal justice systems in the US.
The study would consider several theoretical frameworks that foster the understanding of different variables on the subject of juvenile recidivism in the US. In this respect, the framework for consideration constitutes of the social control and social learning theories.
The Social Control Theory
Socially, individuals ought to ascribe to particular norms, behaviors, and values that safeguard their culture. However, delinquents depict an attribute that denotes their failure in the formation or maintenance of cohesion with the society in the form of attachment, involvement, commitment, and belief (Siegel & Welsh, 2014). Therefore, failure to integrate the four aspects heightens the chances of youth engaging in delinquent acts. The attachment feature pertains to the effective connections the youth develops towards significant others.
Since the family is the primary target of attachment, the environment significantly determines the behavioral development of the youth. Commitment among the youth usually manifests in the desire to attain academic and occupational goals. In this case, less committed adolescents have a greater potential for engaging themselves in activities like smoking, drinking, and dating besides other behaviors that show a lack of direction towards the realization of certain goals than the committed ones (Siegel & Welsh, 2014).
Furthermore, the theory postulates that involvement is essential for enforcing participation that could lead to the fulfillment of socially upheld success. Siegel and Welsh (2014).argue that unsuccessful integration of the young people’s participation in matters of family or community interest is crucial for the mitigation of deviant behavior.
Moreover, the theory notes that accepting the moral validity of the socially constructed values through belief reduce the chances of the youth to develop a delinquent character. Importantly, aspects of academic success and family cohesion reveal the efficiency of the social control mechanisms in mitigating crime. Thus, the social control theory would foster the understanding of the social constructs that shape up social behavior from a young age to adulthood concerning the features of commitment, attachment, involvement, and belief.
The Social Learning Theory
The approach of this paper would also consider the arguments of the social learning theory with concern to juvenile delinquency and recidivism. The social learning theory underscores that possibility of an individual to engage in deviant or criminal behavior if they associate with others who participate in deviant behavior and openly show the definitions of their non-conformity attitudes. Thus, the subscribers to the particular behavior perceive it as rewarding, and they would continue influencing others for justifying their norms, beliefs, and values (Siegel & Welsh, 2014).
In this regard, the social learning theory would bolster an understanding of the relationship between antisocial attributes and criminal behavior portrayed by adolescents. Further, when a former delinquent associates with criminal peers, their odds of recidivating increases. Thus, both the social control and social learning theories provide essential ideas that facilitate a better understanding of conditions that trigger recidivism.
Juvenile Recidivism and the Media
The mass media is an effective platform for disseminating information to the public regarding a particular issue of interest. Juvenile delinquency and recidivism as one of the criminal justice problems that affect the society have witnessed wide coverage on Television shows, news media television and print, magazines, and movies among other forms. Law and Order is one of the TV dramas that effectively covers the issue of juvenile crime and recidivism.
The show typically characterizes 16 to 17-year-olds as violent juvenile offenders who also deserve to undergo judicial procedures just like adults. However, such films lack to depict the urgency and seriousness of juvenile recidivism in the society by creating only superficial stints that keep the audience glued to the show instead of portraying how to solve the issue of juvenile delinquency and recidivism. Instead, the integration of sociological explanations within the film would influence the audience’s perception regarding youth recidivism.
Currently, the mass media is perceived as the prime source of information concerning criminal behavior and juvenile delinquency since a small proportion of the general public experience directly (Siegel &Welsh, 2014). However, some similarities between the film and the reality are portrayed in the contemporary crime movies, as offenders and suspects are depicted as male Caucasians, which is regular with the official information on crime. Siegel and Welsh (2014) suggest that various television shows rarely use African American characters as the crime experts but instead as offenders or suspects in their roles. Further, the young delinquents are usually African American while the Whites are normally portrayed as the victims of crime.
The mass media has the potential of influencing the young people to engage in delinquent behavior due to the violence shown in most of the movie and Television shows. In this respect, the assumption holds that exposure to violent scenes or situations covered by the mass media can considerably influence the behavior of the juvenile. Thus, aggression and violence in the media could trigger the onset of delinquent behavior that has the capability of redevelopment even after the administration of punitive or rehabilitative measures.
Furthermore, Siegel and Welsh (2014) point out that the mass media plays music from genres like the gangster rap that significantly contains aggressive and violent language thereby, influence the youth to adopt the delivered behavior. Similarly, violent video games contribute to violent behavior tendencies in children and adolescents. Thus, continued exposure to both violent and aggressive music and video games negatively affect the behavioral development of minors by influencing them to value such behavior.
The media depiction of juvenile recidivism in scholarly works
The mass media provide insightful revelations about the dynamic aspects of juvenile crime and recidivism. Importantly, the various avenues show how the society perceives the problem of violent behavior and crime in the US neighborhoods and streets. Thus, the claims by Mulder et al. (2011) gain substance in the sense that static and dynamic factors within the individual and the environment have a bearing on their possibility of recidivating.
In this regard, the static, individual risk aspects like the onset of antisocial attitudes and behaviors at an early age as triggered by violent scenes seen on the mass media contributes to delinquent behavior. Further, the dynamic environmental threat influences that include residing in impoverished settings and associating with delinquent peers is a common feature of the mass media’s depiction of criminal patterns as depicted by Television shows, movies, and magazines.
Additionally, films that contain situations of juvenile confinement programs, the efficiency of such rehabilitative and corrective measures could be assessed. Therefore, the postulations by Ryan et al. (2014) regarding the effectiveness of restorative measures gains substance as some characters in the films choose not to infract while others proceed with deviant acts even after confinement. Additionally, the sentiments raised by Bradshaw and Roseborough (2005) show essence since most crime television shows and movies emphasize the importance of the offenders’ exercise of commitment, accountability, involvement, and belief.
The diverse mass media portrayal of juvenile recidivism situations contain some aspects of the social learning and social control theories. In most cases, the delinquent juveniles learn the behaviors from their associates as they seek a sense of belonging. In so doing, they end up in crime, and they will continue the trend even after first conviction as they try to safeguard their identity with a particular group.
Local Initiatives that address the issue of Juvenile Recidivism
Various states in the US have established policies and legislations, programs, and agencies that aim at the curtailment of recidivism among the juveniles. The initiatives seek to improve the efficacy of the juvenile criminal justice systems by reinforcing the preventive and restorative aspects of the initiatives. The state of California has experienced an increase in the number of juvenile delinquent cases with a high incarceration rate of 271 juveniles per 100,000.
The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) executes various programs that seek to reduce the cases of juvenile crime and recidivism through the Division of Rehabilitative Programs (DRP). The goal of the department is the realization of successful rehabilitative programs that help offenders to better their education, career skills, confidence, and life skills thereby, reducing their chances of recidivating. The rehabilitative measures have considerable helped to reduce the cases of juvenile recidivism in the state of California.
The California Youth Authority (CYA) is another agency that aims at streamlining the juvenile justice system in California through collaboration with other local agencies. The CYA purposes to combat recidivism through a range of programs that concentrate on vocation training and academic education, specialized counseling, sex offender and drug abuse, and thorough mental health treatment. Moreover, the Integrated Behavior Treatment Model developed by the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) in California seeks to instill skills that promote anti-criminal behavior (Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, 2015).
National Initiatives that address the issue of Juvenile Recidivism
In the US, it is projected that at least 1 million juvenile arrests are reported annually, necessitating the implementation of programs, policies, and initiatives that would cut the high arrest cases. The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) pursue the execution of policies and programs that would in turn, improve the efficiency of the juvenile criminal justice systems in all the states. Through the Smart on Juvenile Justice Initiative, the body has significantly bolstered the reformation of juvenile justice processes and advocating the mitigation of ethnic and racial disparities that exist in the justice system (Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, 2015).
Additionally, the OJJDP facilitates various research and report endeavors that pursue to address the juvenile delinquency and recidivism problem in the US. For instance, the agency sponsored a longitudinal study titled “Pathway to Desistance” that sought to identify the factors influence young offenders to either carry on with or desist from criminal behavior. Some of the factors identified include individual maturation, criminal justice system involvement, and life changes. Besides, OJJDP has initiated several inquiries that seek to unearth the inducers and correlates of recurrent juvenile delinquency (Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, 2015).
The OJJDP devotes its efforts to improve the efficiency of the services provided by the juvenile judicial systems by engagement in several intervention initiatives. In this respect, the national agency develops preventive measures that concentrate on gang involvement, youth violence, underage drinking, and girls’ delinquency. In so doing, the agency tries to alter the dynamic environmental aspects of the causes of juvenile recidivism as a strategy for improving the efficiency of the judicial systems as argued by Mulder et al. (2011).
Furthermore, the agency assists children who experienced sexual exploitation and abduction. Through the Tribal Youth Program, the OJJDP enhances the mitigation of juvenile delinquency and recidivism by integrating tribes in response to the care needs of the minor offenders. Moreover, the efforts of the OJJDP cannot be underestimated since it has elicited positive outcomes at the national level by addressing the diverse juvenile delinquency issues in the US (Siegel &Welsh, 2014).
Concerning government legislations pertaining juvenile justice systems, in the US, the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) serves as the most crucial federal legislation that affects juveniles. The JJDPA stipulates the key manner through which all the federal governments form their standards for local and state juvenile justice strategies. Further, the JJDPA provides that the various systems should receive the national government’s support regarding funding, training, and technical support, research, and evaluation (Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, 2015).
However, the policy has received numerous challenges from parties with different ideas concerning juvenile justice procedures since its establishment in 1974. According to Siegel and Welsh (2014), some of the opponents purpose to undermine the protection of the youth delinquents and prevention resources while others propose that youth offenders should also go through the same judicial processes as adults.
Despite the ambitious efforts depicted by various agencies that purpose to improve the efficacy of the juvenile justice systems, some loopholes should be filled for the realization of desirable outcomes. In so doing, the issue of juvenile recidivism would undergo substantial transformation regarding features like policies and structures that characterize the functionality of the juvenile justice mechanisms. In this light, the goal of the recommendations strives to provide means of curtailing the causes of juvenile recidivism in the US.
Further, the recommendations would be centered on the structural and legislative or policy changes that would improve the outcome of juvenile justice processes. Importantly, the recommendations would consider the ideas of the social control theory in a way that it depicts its usefulness in identifying the triggers and preventing the increase of delinquent behavior among young adults. The following recommendations could significantly improve the move towards the reduction of juvenile recidivism.
The US agencies that are concerned with the issue of juvenile delinquency and recidivism like the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) ought to initiate studies that further analyze the depiction of juvenile offenders in crime films aired on mass media. Such studies could also focus on violent video games and magazines that are easily accessible to minors. In this regard, the move would assist in alteration of dynamic environmental factors that trigger recidivism.
Since the social control theory upholds the essence of creating an attachment with significant others not only in the family but also in the community setting, the OJJDP could deliberate on studies that explore the link between social isolation through crime films and violent video games. Such inquiries are crucial since the availability of crime dramas on a wide array of channels, networks, and syndicated programming. Additionally, comparing the representation of juvenile crime dramas with reality-based situations as depicted in newsmagazines and television news is vital.
The structures of the juvenile criminal justice systems in the US require improvements that would clearly show the rates of recidivism not only at the local and state level but also at the national level. Therefore, the OJJDP ought to focus on the standardization of data collection initiatives and the juvenile crime definitions in all the states. The move would attain significance through the development of a database that integrates all the information regarding juvenile delinquency and the projects of the OJJDP.
Facilitating the data and information elements of the juvenile justice systems would also require the execution of research endeavors that seek to capture information regarding the causes of recidivism like traumatic childhood events. Concerning the social control theory, it is essential for the society to possess a collective understanding of the moral and behavioral expectations through clear definition. By integrating all the data and definitions, the various juvenile judicial systems would address the subject of this paper collectively and effectively.
Legislative changes also require consideration through alterations that would heighten efficiency. In this concern, the Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) requires authorization for it to solve the challenges surrounding the criminal justice outcomes associated with juveniles. Through adequate funding, the functionality of the JJDPA would attain vitality since its implementation through the OJJPD would be streamlined in all the states. Additionally, implementing legislative changes that would put in place measures that bolster accountability regarding the curtailment of ethnic and racial disparities associated with juvenile judicial processes is crucial. Importantly, the traditional approaches to dealing with juvenile offenders that include retribution and rehabilitation should undergo replacement by encouraging the implementation of the more efficient restorative approach as proposed by Bradshaw and Roseborough (2005).
Thus, upholding racial and ethnic equality besides the restorative correction technique would foster the administration of fair processes that primarily seek the involvement, commitment, accountability, and belief, among the juvenile offenders. In this case, the social control theory could attain significance in this study since it promoted an understanding of the essence of collectively endeavoring towards the realization of a solution to a certain issue of social importance. Moreover, the crucial functionality of social control mechanisms provides a foundation for the legislative changes that the juvenile justice systems should consider for reduction of juvenile recidivism in the US.
Bradshaw, W., & Roseborough, D. (2005). Restorative justice dialogue: The impact of mediation and conferencing on juvenile recidivism. Fed. Probation, 69(2), 15-21.
Katsiyannis, A., Ryan, B., Zhang, D., & Spann, A. (2008). Juvenile delinquency and recidivism: The impact of academic achievement. Reading & Writing Quarterly, 24(2), 177-196.
Letourneau, J., Bandyopadhyay, D., Sinha, D., & Armstrong, K. S. (2009). The influence of sex offender registration on juvenile sexual recidivism. Criminal Justice Policy Review, 20(2), 136-153.
Mulder, E., Brand, E., Bullens, R., & Van Marle, H. (2011). Risk factors for overall recidivism and severity of recidivism in serious juvenile offenders. International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, 55(1), 118-35.
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Ryan, J., Abrams, L., & Huang, H. (2014). First-Time Violent Juvenile Offenders: Probation, Placement, and Recidivism. Social Work Research, 38(1), 19-26.
Siegel, L., & Welsh, B. (2014). Juvenile delinquency: Theory, practice, and law. Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.