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Effect of Criminal Justice Involvement in the Transition to Adulthood

NCJ Number
Date Published
September 2009
147 pages
This study examined the causal effect of criminal justice involvement in the late teens and early twenties on later status attainment, as measured by educational achievement, the probability of employment, and earnings.
The study findings have three prominent themes. First, having been sanctioned by the criminal justice system, whether by community supervision or incarceration, was associated with an apparent short-term increase in employment prospects (e.g., hours worked per week); and weekly earnings increased for those under community supervision. It is plausible to speculate that probation/parole supervision conditions accounted for this improvement in employment; however, involvement in the criminal justice system was also associated with the long-term erosion of employment prospects. After approximately 3 years following conviction, weekly earnings were indistinguishable between convicted and nonconvicted individuals. Second, sanctioned offenders experienced substantial declines in their formal schooling, which was likely to be yet another liability to their long-term earnings potential. Moreover, the schooling gap between convicted and nonconvicted individuals increased over time. Third, incarcerated offenders were less likely to be employed following their return to their community; however, their nonemployment reflected nonparticipation in the labor force rather than unemployment. These findings suggest that having been sanctioned by the criminal justice system is associated with serious impairment of status attainment, which in turn makes it difficult to commit to a normative lifestyle. The criminal justice system must commit itself to addressing the challenge of improving outcomes for individuals who come under its influence. The data used in this study was from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997, a nationally representative sample of almost 9,000 youth born during the years 1980 through 1984 and living in the United States during the initial interview year in 1997. Extensive tables and figures, and 133 references

Date Published: September 1, 2009