U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Effect of Juvenile Justice System Processing on Subsequent Delinquent and Criminal Behavior: A Cross-National Study

NCJ Number
Date Published
October 2003
154 pages
This study identified and explored the similarities and differences in juvenile justice systems in Denver, CO, and Bremen, Germany, in order to determine the effects of distinct features of these systems on subsequent delinquency were examined in samples of high-risk subjects at each site.
Compared with the Denver system, the Bremen juvenile justice system has a more lenient, diversion-oriented policy; whereas, the Denver juvenile justice system was more punitive. In Bremen, arrest cannot legally occur until a person is 14-years-old, and juvenile law can be and usually is applied to individuals 18- to 20-years-old. In Denver, the age of responsibility is 10-years-old, and adult processing begins at age 18. In Bremen, dismissal and diversion from formal court processing account for over 90 percent of the cases of juveniles ages 14 to 17 referred to the prosecution. In Denver, offenders may be ticketed or taken into custody. Arrested offenders are most often referred to juvenile court and receive intermediate sanctions. Confinement is rare in Bremen, but is used in approximately 10-20 percent of Denver cases. Delinquency prevalence rates were similar at both sites (62-69 percent) for those ages 14-17; however, Denver offenders reported committing a greater number of offenses every year. The use of cross-tabulations, multinomial regression, precision-matched control groups, and event-history models found little effect of arrest on subsequent delinquency across both sites. When there was an effect, arrest was associated with sustained or increasing levels of delinquent behavior. The level of sanction applied had little impact on future delinquency and crime. In Bremen particularly, when an effect was observed more severe sanctions resulted in persistence or increases in future delinquent/criminal involvement. This report advises that although the findings must be tempered by limitations identified in this report, the consistency of multiple analyses across sites suggests the general ineffectiveness of arrest and sanctioning. The findings suggest that policymakers should examine the appropriateness of increased severity of sanctions as a crime-control strategy. Extensive tables and 66 references

Date Published: October 1, 2003