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Impact of Incarceration on Young Offenders

NCJ Number
Date Published
April 2009
179 pages
This study examined the impact of incarceration on the likelihood of recommitment for 9,892 young offenders (ages 14-21 at admission) in California.

The study data show that young offenders sentenced by criminal courts and housed in juvenile facilities had the lowest rate of recommitment after release compared to those sentenced by criminal courts and housed in adult facilities as well as those sentenced by juvenile courts and housed in juvenile facilities. Factors characteristic of the offenders' lives upon admission to incarceration were the strongest predictors of recidivism for all three groups; however, the study found that distinctive experiences while in prison may hinder positive development and normal desistance from crime that typically occurs with aging. Offenders housed in juvenile facilities, regardless of the type of sentencing court, showed a decrease in recidivism as they matured; offenders housed in adult prisons, on the other hand, showed no decrease in offending as they aged. In analyzing the findings, the study challenges the current trend in public policy that assumes that serious and/or older offenders are not susceptible to positive change under the rehabilitative model of the juvenile justice system. The author proposes the "Deprivation of Development Theory," which integrates importation (offender characteristics present upon admission to incarceration) and deprivation theories (distinctive harmful experiences while incarcerated) in explaining criminal career trajectories in the context of adolescent development. The study used official data from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation in following the offender sample from the sentencing court through every facility in which they were housed during their incarceration and over the 5-year period after release. 14 tables, 8 figures, and 147 references

Date Published: April 1, 2009