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Recidivism of Juvenile offenders Research Paper


The phenomenon of youth who repeatedly engage in criminal behavior is common in the society. Youth who repeatedly commit crimes are known as re-offenders, while the repetition of crimes by youth is technically referred to as juvenile recidivism.

The study of juvenile recidivism has attracted substantial attention from scholars, especially psychologists, because the youth are considered to be at more risk of becoming re-offenders due to their age. Factors like the sex of the offender, and the consequences that result from initial offences, have also been known to affect the rates of recidivism (Bynum, 2010).

Other factors that substantially affect the rates of recidivism among juveniles are relationship with parents and peers, racial orientation of the offender, and indulgence in drugs. There are also other external factors like globalism, social changes and the diversity of people in terms of social status, economic statuses, and even ethics.

A number of studies related to recidivism have already been conducted in various states, and countries. The findings of these studies confirm the aforementioned factors affecting recidivism. It is of essence that authorities utilize the findings and recommendations of these studies in formulating policies since juvenile recidivism is a problem that affects the society greatly.

Apart from, potentially, making youth track of their lives, recidivism is responsible for a number of disorders occurring in the contemporary society. This is because the victims of juvenile offenders may have a hard time recovering from offence.

This, of course, depends on the kind of offence perpetrated against the victim. Sex-offence victims are likely to be the most affected by the acts of offence committed by these juveniles against them. The effect even extends beyond the victims, and the family and the society of the victim may also be affected. This may occur after murders, sex-offences, and other serious offences.

The fact that every report for a study on recidivism ends with recommendations is a plus in the efforts to reduce recidivism rates. A number of solutions that can effectively work in certain states have thus been identified.

It is thus the responsibility of policy makers to ensure that they develop appropriate and effective policies that put into consideration the facts on the ground, established by research activities. This paper is a critical examination of research that has already been conducted on juvenile recidivism.

Problem statement

One thing that must be kept in mind in studying recidivism is that, although recidivism shares a lot of similarities in different states, it is not essentially the same in all states. This is, of course, as a result of the variety of factors that affect recidivism in different states. For instance, as stated above, racial diversity is a factor that determines recidivism rates.

This is because research has shown a significant prevalence of recidivism in certain racial groups, and thus racial composition of a population will indubitably affect recidivism rates. A good example of this prevalence is the fact that in virtually all states, recidivism is more prevalent among black juveniles than their white counterparts (Rasmussen, 2003).

Recidivism rates have also been observed to vary with age brackets. For instance, research shows that juveniles in mid-teenage are exhibit more recidivism than their counterparts in early teenage and late teenage. As mentioned above, sex is another main determinant of the rate of recidivism in juveniles.

Therefore, in states where there is a high comparative population of male juveniles than their female counterparts, recidivism will be higher than in a state with a higher relative population of female juveniles (Miner, 2002).

Other usually ignored factors affecting recidivism in juveniles include social changes, ethics and globalism. When juveniles are exposed to social changes, their lifestyles can be substantially affected. For instance, when parents move from one state to another, the juvenile may have to look for new friends. This may be hindered by the social structure of the destination, and thus the juvenile may end up developing social problems.

Otherwise, the juvenile may keep bad company as a result of social frustration (Cain, 1996). These two, social problems and bad company, will most likely lead to delinquency which, if not checked, will recidivate. Recidivism is also likely to be high in societies in which there are ethical problems.

This is because juveniles will lack guilt while committing misdemeanors, and this could easily lead to delinquency and subsequent recidivism. Another, issue that is substantially affecting the rates of recidivism in juveniles is globalization. Globalization tools like the internet have made it convenient for juveniles to commit offences. The tools may also act as a motivator for the offences.

For instance, accessing pornography has never been as easy in the past as it currently is. Juveniles can easily access internet pornography using computers or even cell phones (Martinez, 2008).

This can be viewed as a motivation for sex offences. It is also easy for juveniles to access their victims by the use of social networking sites, and mobile telephones. With this knowledge, it is important for parents to monitor the online activities of their children, and be keen with the kind of friends the juveniles keep.

Literature review

Barnes (2010) identifies the main motivator for crime, especially in young people, as the development of an antisocial disposition. These are people who live negative mindsets, making them irresponsible, unremorseful and selfish. These people are also characterized by a blatant lack of guilt, which, in conjunction with the negative characteristics, make them go against societal rules.

This description depicts many of the juvenile offenders who are locked up in various facilities across the country. “Research suggests that antisocial behavior has a link to genetics”, (Barnes, 2008, p. 39). Research has also suggested that people with antisocial behavior are highly likely to have low self esteem, unable to maintain peer relationships, and they are also likely to have unstable home relationships.

Research has also suggested that peers who have a delinquent personality have low control over their social activities, they have poor self-concept, and they are unable to maintain interpersonal relationships. This is what led researchers to establish a connection between juvenile delinquency and recidivism, and antisocial behavior.

From this discussion, there is a crucial necessity of the involvement of family and communities in curbing juvenile recidivism. Early interventions should thus be put in place to identify and guide youths with delinquent personalities. Those who have already developed these tendencies should also be closely watched to reduce the likelihood of developing recidivism.

The two groups may also be helped by facilitating sports, camps, and other social programs to help them improve their social skills. This will be helpful to ex-offenders who may lack productive things to do with their lives after being released from facilities. It is also important to incorporate the help in holistic programs that address all the needs of the youth.

Ex-offenders may be facilitated to go back to school, or to get some employment (Barnes, 2008). This will help them improve their sense of self-worth, which could in turn reduce the rates of recidivism significantly. The offenders may also be guided while at the facility to prepare them for life after incarceration.

This will help reduce recidivism. It is also important for rehabilitation programs to include forums in which the youth can be able to talk about what they have gone through, and be counseled appropriately. This will make them face their problems with an effort to reduce them.

According to Barnes (2008), the aforementioned dispositions are caused by a variety of factors. These factors include the lack of self control, which is a product of poor parenting, development of negative attitudes that may be as a result of relating with peers who have these antisocial characters, and the like.

The development of these antisocial characteristics is the one that researchers have identified as the root cause of delinquency. Delinquency may, however, come as a result of indulgence in risky behaviors by the youth, which is a product of the aforementioned lack of guilt. Additionally, youths who come from poor family backgrounds are more likely to engage in delinquency than their affluent counterparts.

However, as stated earlier, age is the main cause of juvenile delinquency, because during their adolescent years, the youth are characterized with a lot of experimentation as they learn socialization. This exposes them to bad influence from antisocial peers, and mediocre role models (Barnes, 2008).

This explains why researchers have found tremendous link between the success of beating juvenile delinquency, and exposure to positive influences.

This can also be related to another study that established higher rates of recidivism among juveniles who went through court systems than juveniles who underwent mediation processes. This can be explained by the bad company that the juveniles are exposed to in the correctional facilities.

Barnes study is credible because it is relevant to both delinquency and recidivism in juveniles. The study is also characterized by evaluation of several studies related to juvenile recidivism adding to its credibility. However, the discussion is characterized by multiple incidences of repetition.

The study also fails to put sufficient emphasis on its topic; “outreach intervention reduces recidivism in juvenile delinquents” (Barnes, 2008, p. 1). Another limitation of this study is the fact that it does not have sufficient empirical evidence for its claims.

Lee & Kalist (2009) identified the causes for recidivism in juveniles as both the decisions and dispositions of the juveniles, and the justice system for the juveniles. For Pennsylvania, recidivism was found to have entrenched effects, with major effects on the victims of delinquency, and minor economic effects on the justice system.

The researchers therefore determined that recidivism data is important for the purposes of correctional planning as well as the development of programs for reducing the rates of recidivism. Pennsylvania data indicated that recidivism was more prevalent among urban Juveniles than their rural counterparts.

Urban counties registered a 20% likelihood of re-offence in juveniles while their rural counterparts registered 16% under the same parameters (Lee and Kalist, 2009). Recidivism was also more on juveniles who had initially committed a felony, with the highest re-offence rate being observed in juveniles who had murdered. In all cases, re-offence was prevalent in males than their female counterparts.

The highest recidivism rates for juveniles in Pennsylvania were also observed in blacks, followed by their white counterparts, while other races had a very low prevalence for recidivism.

Other variables that were found to have effect on the rate of recidivism, or the length of time before a juvenile was referred to a second facility, include the number of police, the per capita income of the county, whether the juvenile was raised by a single mother, and other socio-demographic factors (Lee and Kalist, 2009).

This study can be regarded as is the epitome of conciseness and relevance. The research data given is very informative, and the analysis of the data in the report reveals many facts about juvenile recidivism. The only limitation of this study is the fact that its research is only done in Pennsylvania. However, parallels can be drawn between Pennsylvania and other states using the variables used in the research.

Another study conducted by the Australian Institute of Criminology seeks to establish the time that juvenile delinquents take to reappear in court. The study established that age, number of convictions, gender, and even previous court appearances, affect recidivism rates.

Data collected during this study showed that a substantial number of first-time juvenile offenders developed criminal careers by re-appearing at least once in their juvenile years. The percentage of first-time offenders who developed recidivism with these parameters was 30% (Leverett, 1999).

During the study, Leverett (1999) established that 22% of juveniles who appeared before the Children’s Court had more than five counts of offence in the past. Leverett (1999) also established that the time that elapsed between the first appearance in court and the first re-offence was longer than subsequent times taken for re-offence

. The study also indicated that the time taken before the first re-offense increased between ages 10 and 13 years, and reduced for the 14 years and over.

This study was relevant to the discussion question of recidivism, and thus it is credible. However, the study only concentrated on Australian data, and no efforts were made to draw parallels with the rest of the world. All in all, the research conducted was good, and reliable data was collected. Therefore, the applicability of the results of the study could have a bigger scope than the study itself.

In another study, Yan et al. (2009) studied recidivism in Missouri. In the study, an approximate 26% of the juveniles studied re-offended within one year, and with a new kind of offence. About 20% of the juveniles studied re-offended with a felony or a class A misdemeanor, within one year of the first offence. Out of the juveniles studied, 9% committed a felony as their re-offence.

Yan et al. also observed that 9% of the juveniles studied had established criminal careers by exhibiting multiple acts of recidivism. An approximate 41% of the juvenile offenders who exhibited recidivism were observed to have re-offended three months or less after their first offence (Yan et al., 2009).

29% of the male offenders were observed to re-offend within 12 months, while their female counterparts were observed to be 19% under the same parameters. Black offenders were observed to have the highest recidivism, followed by their American Indian counterparts. The whites were third in this categorization. The respective percentages are 31% of blacks, and 26% of white juveniles.

Recidivism was observed to be higher in the age bracket 13-15 than 10-12 and 16-17. Sex offenders were observed to have the lowest recidivism. Recidivism was observed to be high among juveniles who were tried normally, while a low recidivism rate was observed among those whose cases were informally filed (Yan et al., 2009).

This study was very relevant as its findings are very useful in identifying the factors that affect recidivism in juveniles. The findings can also be used in policy formulation. However, like other studies, the research had a scope limitation as it only focused on Missouri. However, the findings can be applied for other areas with consideration of demographic dynamics.

Critical analysis of recidivism of juvenile offenders

The literature review above identifies the motivation for juvenile delinquency and recidivism as an antisocial disposition. This can be considered to be both true and false depending on a number of considerations. First, it is true that a great number of juveniles who have an antisocial character may end up being offenders, and subsequently recidivate. However, this is not true for all antisocial juveniles.

Another concern is the fact that a juvenile who does not have an antisocial disposition may commit and offence, and recidivate depending on whether efforts are made to avoid the juvenile from recidivating. It can thus be argued that, although an antisocial disposition is a motivation for delinquency and recidivism in juveniles, the question of whether it leads to recidivism or not depends on other numerous factors.

Thus an antisocial juvenile who is accorded with the appropriate care and counseling is unlikely to commit an offence in the first place. In the same way, an antisocial offender who is properly guided in and out of a correctional facility is unlikely to recidivate. This does not discredit the fact that identification of an antisocial disposition in juveniles as possible cause of recidivism can be useful in helping juveniles to avoid recidivating.

It has also been established, in the discussion above, that a number of factors affect the recidivism rates of juveniles. Consider the study conducted by Barnes (2008) for example. A Spotlight is shed on the social factors affecting recidivism.

Essentially, Barnes (2008) discusses the factors that may lead to initiation of juveniles to delinquency, and subsequent recidivism. Some of these factors include poor parenting and peer pressure. Poverty was also established as a factor affecting juvenile recidivism. Lee & Kalist (2009) also gave motivations for and causes of recidivism.

The argument in this study is that juveniles recidivate as a result of their dispositions and decisions, and also due to faults in the justice system for juveniles. Factors affecting the rates of recidivism were also studied. These factors include the social class of the juveniles. The study showed that rural juveniles were less likely to recidivate than juveniles in urban areas.

This was evidenced by the higher rates of recidivism in urban areas than rural areas. In another research, Leverett (1999) established that juveniles living in the rural setting took longer to reappear in court than their counterparts living in the urban setting. It is thus evident that the setting in which the juvenile is domiciled is a determinant of recidivism. Another factor affecting recidivism is the race of juveniles.

Almost all studies reviewed revealed that black juveniles are likely to exhibit more recidivism as compared to other races. Another factor that was identified as a determinant of recidivism is the initial offence that the juvenile committed. Research therefore shows that juveniles who initially commit a felony are at more risk of recidivating than the juveniles who commit other offences.

Murder is specifically a high risk offence whose perpetrators are highly likely to re-offend, even if they will commit a different offence (Lee & Kalist, 1999). Research has shown that re-offence is more prevalent among male offenders than female offenders. Other factors identified by the empirical analysis of recidivism include the number of police per capita, the length of stay in a correctional facility etcetera.

Looking at the results that were brought about by the discussed studies, one wonders why the stated factors affect the recidivism rates in juveniles. Some of the factors are easy to decipher like the gender factor. It is common knowledge that male juveniles are more violent and experimental than their female counterparts.

It is thus expected that a female juvenile who finds herself in the wrong side of the law, will, most probably, be careful not to offend again. This can be contrasted with the eager-to-experiment nature of male juveniles, and their characteristic violent nature. The aggressiveness of male juveniles can thus be seen as the reason why male offenders exhibited more recidivism than their female counterparts.

In the same way, some races are characterized by violence and more criminal appetite than others. It is common knowledge that black youth engage themselves in more criminal activities than their white counterparts (Hevener, 2009). This may be explained by the differences in the social statuses of these two racial groups, especially the fact that there are more poor blacks than poor whites.

There is also a common stereotype that blacks have an angrier disposition as compared to their white counterparts. However, there is no empirical evidence on this allegation. The difference in the recidivism rates of rural and urban settings can be explained by the economic options that people living in rural areas have, it may also be as a result of the influence that juveniles living in urban areas may be exposed to.

The determination of the rates of recidivism by the kind of offence first committed by the juvenile can be explained by psychological reasoning. Offenders whose first offence is murder will most likely be troubled after leaving correctional facilities. This may make them commit other felonies or misdemeanors.

Solutions for recidivism of juvenile offenders

A number of solutions of recidivism have been suggested by the reviewed literature. One such solution is the implementation of a holistic program for rehabilitation of juvenile offenders before and after they leave correctional facilities. Such a program could include visitations by experts in correctional facilities to help the offenders prepare for life after leaving the facilities.

The juveniles may also be counseled while in the facilities, and given an opportunity to vent their anger by explaining the reasons behind their offences (Gewirtz, 2007). After leaving the facilities, juveniles should be given further counseling, and accorded the necessary moral support by family and the society.

The aforementioned program should also have facilities for recreation activities in order to occupy the ex-offenders, and make them improve on their social relations. The juveniles should also be closely watched to make sure that they do not keep bad company when out of the correctional facility since this is one of the main causes of recidivism.

One advantage of developing such program for rehabilitating juvenile offenders is that the program can be tailored depending on the needs of the juveniles. For instance, if the reason for delinquency in the first place was drug abuse, an offender will be placed under a rehabilitation program to treat this problem.

Other offenders suffering from lack of self esteem, communication problems, or even social problems may also be helped appropriately depending on their problem. The program may also be full time or part time depending on the needs of the juveniles. Another advantage is the fact that the juveniles will be attended to by professionals, and thus the program is highly expected to help them.

Additionally, there will be an advantage accruing due to the large number of juveniles being rehabilitated at once. The juveniles will be able to interact and learn from each other while improving their social skills. The program costs will also be cut down by the large number of participants in proportion with the success that the program is expected to achieve.

On the other hand, the large number of participants may be disadvantageous in that the juveniles may negatively influence each other. The cumulative cost of such a program is also high, and thus it is not easy to set it up.

Apart from having a program for rehabilitating ex-offenders, juveniles can also be helped by family members and the society to avoid re-offence. Family and the society should ensure that ex-offenders live positively after leaving correctional facilities.

Family members should therefore facilitate the ex-offenders to re-join school, secure a job, or even find them good company to keep. The family members and the society should also ensure that the ex-offenders do not engage in negative activities like drug abuse, or watching negative films. The ex-offenders should be kept under close watch in order to ensure that they do not re-offend.

One advantage attributable to this kind of rehabilitation is that it is cheap as compared to coming up with a program for rehabilitating juvenile offenders. Family rehabilitation can also be very effective in a situation where mutual respect is maintained between the family members, and the ex-offender.

This is because the ex-offender and the family members may be sharing strong relationships such that the ex-offender is willing to do his/her best in rehabilitation efforts.

However, this solution may not work if the family members are not knowledgeable enough to deal with complex psychological problems like self esteem, drug abuse and the like. Additionally, in situations where the family members do not share mutual respect, it may be difficult to undertake this kind of rehabilitation.

As evidenced by the literature above, recidivism is more among juveniles whose cases are formally filed than their counterparts whose cases are informally filed (Yan et al., 2009). This implies that the juvenile justice system has some shortcomings that make offenders exhibit recidivism after their release from correctional facilities.

The government should come up with appropriate policies, after considering the facts on the ground, to ensure that the correctional facilities for juveniles are meant to help them to reform, rather than to transform them into career criminals (“Sentencing Guidelines Commission”, 2005).

A good policy can be the transformation of juvenile correctional facilities into integrated facilities with the features of the aforementioned rehabilitation program. Such an arrangement will thus have the advantages and disadvantages of the aforementioned rehabilitation program.

The aforementioned establishment of a rehabilitation program for juveniles to avoid recidivism has a number of costs and benefits.

The main costs associated with such a program include the cost of hiring professionals who will be providing services to the juveniles, the cost of infrastructure for sports and recreation like fields, swimming pools, etcetera, the cost of medication in case the juveniles have psychological problems that can be treated by prescription medicine and the cost of hiring people for general administration activities.

On the other hand, such a program will have benefits in that it is highly expected to be effective due to the fact that the juveniles interact with professionals, and the numerical benefits that may come with it.

For example, the relative cost of the success achieved by the program is bound to be low due to the numbers. The infrastructure established by the program may also be used by the public or leased out during the periods when the number of juveniles being rehabilitated is low.


Recidivism among juveniles is a subject that requires dedicated attention from authorities. This is because apart from destroying the lives of young people, these same people are the ones who grow to become serial killers, serial rapists, burglars, arsons, etcetera. It is thus in the interest of the government to address the issue of recidivism in juveniles since doing so will substantially reduce the rates of crime.

When young offenders are rehabilitated, they engage themselves in productive activities like economic activities or even academic (Ludman, 1993). It can thus be argued that reducing recidivism rates among juveniles will help in improving the economic status of states and countries.

In order to reduce the rates of recidivism among juveniles, there is need for a dedicated evaluation of existing research on the topic, as well as assessment of the situation on the ground in the concerned state. These studies need to have a special focus on the factors that influence the rates of recidivism, as well as recommendations given by scholars for reducing the same.

This will help the authorities to come up with informed interventions that are bound to reduce the rates of recidivism (Revere, 2007). Among the interventions that can be used to achieve this objective is the implementation of rehabilitation programs, as well as the use of home rehabilitation, depending on the nature of the delinquency and recidivism problem.

The authorities should specifically focus their attention on rehabilitation programs, and effective correctional facilities (Northey, 2004). A project like this is thus important to policy makers who may want to develop policies related to recidivism. Completion of this kind of project makes one realize the gaps that are existing in our legal systems, and the urgent need to address these gaps.

Reference List

Barnes, C. (2008). Outreach Intervention Reduces Recidivism in Juvenile Delinquents. Web.

Bynum, T. (2010). Recidivism of Sex Offenders. Web.

Cain, M. (1996). Recidivism of Juvenile Offenders in New South Wales. Web.

Gewirtz, M. (2007). Recidivism among juvenile offenders in New York City. Web.

Hevener, G. (2009). Juvenile Recidivism Study. Web.

Lee, D., & Kalist, D. (2009). . Web.

Leverett, S. (1999). Recidivism Among Juvenile Offenders: An Analysis of Times to Reappearance in Court. Web.

Ludman, R. (1993). Prevention and control of juvenile delinquency (2nd ed). New York: Oxford University Press.

Martinez, P. (2008). . Web.

Miner, M. (2002). Factors Associated With Recidivism in Juveniles: An analysis of serious sex offenders. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, Vol. 39, Issue 4, pp. 420 – 430.

Northey, F. (2004). Promoting Justice in the delivery of services to juvenile delinquents. Child and Adolescent Social Work Journal, Vol. 14, Issue 1, pp. 5-22

Rasmussen, L. (2003). Factors Related to Recidivism Among Juvenile Sexual Offenders. Sexual Abuse Journal. Vol. 11, Number 1, pp. 69-85

Revere, E. (2007). Recidivism Among Juvenile Offenders in New York City. Web.

Sentencing Guidelines Commission. (2005). Recidivism of Juvenile Offenders. Web.

Yan, J., Janku, A., McElfresh, R. (2009). MO Juvenile Offender Recidivism. Web.

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