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Juvenile Probation Officers' Disposition Recommendations: Predictive Factors and Their Alignment with Predictors of Recidivism

NCJ Number
Journal of Crime and Justice Volume: 31 Issue: 1 Dated: 2008 Pages: 1-34
Jeffrey Lin; Joel Miller; Mayumi Fukushima
Date Published
34 pages
This study compared factors that New York City juvenile probation officers considered important in making recommendations, when preparing and writing presentencing reports, against factors that predicted recidivism.
While juvenile probation officers (JPOs) seem to consider a range of factors related to recidivism risk and youths’ needs in making dispositional recommendations, they appear most concerned with youths’ respect for and compliance with legal institutions. The findings suggest that JPOs in New York City adopt measures of institutional noncompliance as critical markers in their “frames of relevance.” However, recidivism is best predicted by gender and school engagement. On the whole, the overlap between the factors that JPOs consider most important and the factors that actually predict recidivism is minimal. The findings suggest that the dual mandate of juvenile justice, to protect public safety and to serve the needs of youth has produced a compromise in the daily work of JPOs which does not effectively identify youth who are likely to re-offend. Studies of juvenile justice systems have suggested that the lack of specified guidelines in decisionmaking processes produces sentencing outcomes which are profoundly affected by the individual discretion of court actors. In addition, the dual mandate complicates this issue. In New York City, one critical decision point is the presentencing report that JPOs write, which makes a dispositional recommendation to the presiding judge. This study examined the key factors that JPOs in New York City considered when recommending dispositions, and compared these findings to factors that predicted different types of re-arrest. In this way, a determination can be made as to how closely recommendations are empirically tied to the risk of reoffending. Tables, notes, references