First-Time Violent Juvenile Offenders: Probation, Placement, and Recidivism
Joseph P. Ryan, Laura S. Abrams and Hui Huang
Social Work Research
March 20, 2014
Rising costs, inefficient systems, and high recidivism rates have recently challenged the social and economic value of secure confinement for juvenile offenders; however, current empirical evidence is inconclusive concerning the value of placing violent youth offenders in secure settings to deter them from future involvement in crime. Using propensity score matching and survival analysis, this study examined the risk of recidivism for first-time violent juvenile offenders assigned to one of three judicial dispositions in Los Angeles County: in-home probation, group-home placement, or probation camp (a secure setting). Approximately half (48%) of first-time violent offenders experienced a subsequent arrest, and the risk of re-offending varied by disposition. Compared with in-home probation, the likelihood of recidivism was 2.12 times greater for youths assigned to probation camps and 1.28 times greater for youths assigned to group homes. African American adolescents, Hispanic adolescents, and adolescents with an open child welfare case were also at an increased risk of recidivism. The findings from this study indicate that in-home probation is a more sensible and effective approach to interrupting criminal trajectories of first-time violent offenders as compared with out-of-home placements. Implications for research, system collaboration, and the training of social work professionals are discussed.