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Effects of Juvenile Incarceration: Evidence From Randomly-Assigned Judges

NCJ Number
Anna Aizer; Joseph J. Doyle, Jr.
Date Published
June 2011
36 pages
This study estimated the causal effects of juvenile incarceration on the likelihood of adult incarceration, using administrative data for nearly 100,000 juvenile offenders who were sentenced in a juvenile court in a large, urban county in the United States over a period of 10 years.
Using an OLS estimate, those incarcerated as juveniles were 60 percent more likely to be incarcerated as adults compared to those juveniles who were sentenced to other than incarceration by a juvenile court. Recognizing that the juveniles sentenced to incarceration might have committed more serious crimes than juveniles not sentenced to incarceration, the study used the cases of randomly assigned judges with differing preferences for using incarceration with juveniles. This ensured that similar cases that received incarceration with one judge, but an alternative community-based sentence with another judge would be prominent in the analysis; therefore, the findings indicate that juveniles who committed similar offenses but received different sentences (one incarceration and the other a community-based sentence) would have their crime trajectories compared according to their juvenile sentence and not their juvenile offenses, since their juvenile offenses were similar. There was also evidence that the timing of incarceration matters, in that the juveniles incarcerated at the ages of 15 and 16 were significantly more likely to be incarcerated as adults compared to 15- and 16-year-olds who committed similar juvenile offenses but were not incarcerated. 5 tables, 3 figures, and 21 references