- To examine patterns of anti-social behavior in serious offenders after court involvement in order to obtain a better understanding of how adolescents reduce their offending behavior over time.
- Data used in this analysis/article draws from a larger study called the “Pathways to Desistance” in which 1,354 serious offenders are interviewed over a seven year period.
- Analyses for the current study used 1,119 male adolescents who had been adjudicated of a serious offense (e.g. includes all felony offenses, as well as misdemeanor weapon offenses and misdemeanor sexual assaults).
- Participants ranged between 14 and 18 years old, with an average age of 16. The sample was ethnically diverse: 19.6% white, 41.1% African American, 34.7 % Hispanic. Data was collected in two cities: Philadelphia, PA and Phoenix, AZ.
- Participants for the current analyses were interviewed twice a year for up to three years. Interviews consisted of a number of measures to assess self-reported offending, mood/anxiety and substance use problems, attitudes toward the legal system, psychosocial maturity, parenting, peers, as well as prior arrest history. Several demographic characteristics were also collected in addition to an assessment of neighborhood disadvantage.
- Researchers clustered participants into five different groups based on their offending patterns. They highlighted in particular those participants who persisted in offending and those who desisted from offending.
- Two years after being adjudicated for a serious offense, a majority of youth (73.8%) reduced their offending to low or zero involvement in offending behavior.
- For those youth who self-reported the lowest level of offending, placement in an institution raised their level of self-reported offending after release from institutional placement.
- The authors conclude that the majority of serious offenders are not necessarily “bad actors” destined for adult criminal activity. Most serious offenders demonstrate low or zero involvement in criminal activity years after court involvement. As a result, this is an important point to raise when highlighting the amenability of a youth to treatment at disposition or in transfer proceedings.
- For youth who have been adjudicated for a serious offense, but demonstrate overall low levels of offending, incarceration or placement in residential treatment facilities has the potential to increase recidivism. As a result, community based alternatives may be a far better rehabilitative option than incarceration or institutional placement, particularly for youth with low levels of overall offending.