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Is the Effect of Justice System Attitudes on Recidivism Stable After Youths' First Arrest? Race and Legal Socialization Among First-Time Youth Offenders

NCJ Number
Law and Human Behavior Volume: 41 Issue: 2 Dated: 2017 Pages: 146-158
A. Fine; C. Cavanagh; S. Donley; P. J. Frick; L. Steinberg; E. Cauffman
Date Published
13 pages
Using a sample of 1,216 first-time, male, juvenile offenders from the Crossroads Study, the current study explored (a) racial/ethnic differences in the longitudinal patterns of youths' attitudes; and (b) reciprocal associations between youths' attitudes and both their offending behavior and rearrests in the 2.5 years after their first arrest.
Youth who hold negative attitudes toward the justice system are more likely to engage in crime. It is particularly important to study attitudes early in someone's criminal career when they may still be open to change. To date, however, there has been no empirical test that has assessed whether the link between attitudes and behavior changes after a first arrest. The results indicate that White youths' attitudes remained largely stable; Black youths' attitudes became more negative; and Latino youths' attitudes became more negative, but only among Latino youth who reoffended. Although the results indicate that youths' attitudes were related to both offending and rearrest, the bi-directional relationship between attitudes and offending weakened across time. After 2.5 years from their first arrest, attitudes no longer predicted offending or rearrests. These novel findings suggest that a youth's first contact is likely the most impactful. When it comes to young offenders' interactions with the justice system, first impressions matter. (Publisher abstract modified)