The effect of sanctions on subsequent criminal activity is of central theoretical importance in criminology. A key question for juvenile justice policy is the degree to which serious juvenile offenders respond to sanctions and/or treatment administered by the juvenile court. The policy question germane to this debate is finding the level of confinement within the juvenile justice system that maximizes the public safety and therapeutic benefits of institutional confinement. Unfortunately, research on this issue has been limited with regard to serious juvenile offenders. We use longitudinal data from a large sample of serious juvenile offenders from two large cities to 1) estimate a causal treatment effect of institutional placement, as opposed to probation, on future rate of rearrest and 2) investigate the existence of a marginal effect (i.e., benefit) for longer length of stay once the institutional placement decision had been made. We accomplish the latter by determining a dose-response relationship between the length of stay and future rates of rearrest and self-reported offending. The results suggest that an overall null effect of placement exists on future rates of rearrest or self-reported offending for serious juvenile offenders. We also find that, for the group placed out of the community, it is apparent that little or no marginal benefit exists for longer lengths of stay. Theoretical, empirical, and policy issues are outlined.
- Juvenile offenders
- Propensity scores