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Pathways to Desistance: A Comprehensive Analysis of Juvenile to Adult Criminal Careers

NCJ Number
Date Published
May 2017
30 pages
Publication Type
Research (Applied/Empirical), Report (Study/Research), Report (Grant Sponsored), Program/Project Description
Grant Number(s)
This study examined the likelihood and extent to which juvenile offenders persist in illegal behavior and become involved in Georgia's adult criminal justice system.
The study linked electronic records from multiple agencies to produce the first statewide longitudinal dataset of half a million justice-involved individuals spanning five decades (1970-2015). A key finding was that age at first juvenile referral had no impact on the likelihood of becoming an adult offender. Forty-one percent of Georgia juvenile offenders went on to be arrested in the state as adults (adult persistence). The best predictor of adult offending was gender; 46 percent of males engaged in offending as adults compared to 30 percent of females. Juveniles who committed felonies had many referrals, and those involved in the juvenile justice system for long periods were the most likely to become adult persistent. Youth who received harsher levels of intervention were more likely to offend as adults. The study also found that juveniles were generalist offenders, who did not tend to specialize in one particular area of crime; they were opportunistic and committed an array of offenses. When juvenile offenders moved into adult offending, they were even less specialized than adult offenders with no juvenile history. When examining adult criminal careers by the age of first arrest, 17-year-old offenders (adults in the Georgia system) were unique, with twice the criminal-career length of their counterparts who started offending younger or older. Inmates who were 17 years old showed higher levels of criminal thinking, more peer and family issues, and less motivation to change their behavior compared to older inmates. The implications of these findings for juvenile justice and criminal justice policies are discussed. 7 tables, 9 figures, and a 65-item bibliography
Date Created: March 5, 2018