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August 13, 2015

New juve research suggests punishment certainty matters over severity to achieve deterence

This recent posting via the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, titled "Report: Certainty, Not Severity, Key in Deterring Juvenile Crime," spotlights recent research on juvenile punishment's impact. Here are excerpts:

Researchers first reported several years ago that a major longitudinal study of serious adolescent offenders showed the severity of their punishments had little effect on their recidivism rates. Digging into the data, the researchers also found that teenagers who commit serious crimes do respond to the threat or risk of sanctions, though not in a one-size-fits-all way.

In a new report released by the federal Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention [available here], researchers say the findings point to the need to devote resources to change risk perceptions, rather than prisons.

The report, “Studying Deterrence Among High-Risk Adolescents,” is one of several OJJDP bulletins based on research from “Pathways to Desistance,” the study that followed more than 1,300 young offenders for seven years after their court involvement.

The resulting research has found no meaningful reduction in offending or arrests due to more severe punishment, such as correctional placement versus probation or longer periods of institutional placement, the researchers said. But it did find that the certainty of punishment can play a role in deterring future crimes. Among adolescents who commit serious offenses, “recidivism is tied strongly and directly to their perceptions of how certain they are that they will be arrested,” the report said.

Edward Mulvey, the principal investigator on the Pathways study, said the idea that adolescents respond to the certainty of punishment, not severity, has found an audience with some policymakers. They are asking whether states should have to justify why the criminal justice system should hold an adolescent offender for a long time....

The new bulletin looks at how young offenders evaluate the risks of crime, which has a deterrence effect. Young people slightly increased their risk perceptions in response to an arrest, it found. The researchers said, though, there is no standard response to the certainty of punishment because risk perceptions vary based on individuals’ prior experiences or history of offenses and other factors.

August 13, 2015 at 08:17 AM | Permalink


There is little doubt that certainty of punishment is a value judges and the criminal justice system should think carefully about. But suggesting that certainty of punishment will affect a significant amount of juvenile or adult criminal behavior is suggesting far too much. Most people do not expect to get caught so the idea that if caught it is "certain this will happen to me" is not part of the typical offender's thought process. Certainty of apprehension might affect behavior.

Posted by: Judge Kevin S. Burke | Aug 13, 2015 3:29:47 PM

I sincerely believe judges are among the lowest scum in our nation. So this is painful for me to say.

I agree with Judge Burke. These cold, heartless, fearless, super predators are not deterred by the abuse of themselves, seeing others killed in their 50% demise rate by murder at a young age, by accidents, by overdoses, by horrific infectious diseases, by the loss of their friends. By beatings and threats by competitors. They laugh at the weakness of the response of the criminal justice system.

Some have admitted they allowed themselves to be arrested to escape being hunted by their competition. They wanted to hide out in juvenile facilities until the heat cooled off. The juvenile justice system is a joke to most of its customers.

Then the lawyer has protected and coddled them, calling them victims of corporate capitalism. So corporal punishment is prohibited. Verbal criticism is relabelled as verbal abuse, and will get a guard fired.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Aug 13, 2015 10:31:53 PM

A punk is a punk, a punk of course.
Unless of course the punk is named Mister Ed!

Posted by: Liberty1st | Aug 14, 2015 6:00:06 AM

Most of the "old" research says the same thing as the "new research," and not just for juveniles.

Posted by: Gritsforbreakfast | Aug 16, 2015 6:45:40 PM

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