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Impact of Juvenile Justice Involvement on Educational Outcomes

NCJ Number
Date Published
June 2004
415 pages
This study examined the effect of juvenile justice involvement on subsequent school and educational engagement and performance in a sample of 778 urban youth of color.
In recent years, the juvenile justice system has appeared to espouse an agenda of increased punishment and accountability. However, research has suggested that juvenile justice policy remains grounded in a rehabilitative model focused on the placement and reentry of adjudicated youth into educational settings. The current study drew on four theoretical perspectives, labeling theory, defiance theory, criminal embeddedness theory, and institutional exclusion theory, in order to probe the relationship between arrest and subsequent school and educational outcomes among a sample of 778 urban youth of color, all of whom had previously been arrested at least once. The youths were compared on a wide range of theoretically relevant variables including individual delinquency and drug use, family socio-economic status, peer delinquency, family structure, family support, ethnicity, gender, neighborhood poverty, neighborhood crime rate, attitudes toward authority, depression, engagement in school, neighborhood social capital, and free time spent with peers. Results of statistical analyses on the survey data indicated that first arrest had no main effect on reading and math achievement test outcomes for seventh and eighth graders but did increase the likelihood of having to repeat eighth grade. Being arrested during ninth grade significantly increased the risk of dropping out of school and of lowering achievement in attendance and grades. These arrest effects were intensified for youth who spent time in detention or who were arrested multiple times. Results of the interviews suggested that youth whose educational and school performance dropped following an arrest were less likely to have received or taken advantage of family and social support after their arrest. The findings suggest that the experience of arrest and juvenile justice involvement, followed by termination of educational opportunities, is so pervasive in some communities that it has come to be regarded as a transition into adulthood. Figures, tables, appendixes, references

Date Published: June 1, 2004