Study: Youth punished as adults re-offend two times more than those receiving juvenile sanctions

Proposed budget cuts would deny youth access to effective rehabilitation and corrections programs

Miami, Florida. A study released Tuesday showed that Miami-Dade youth tried as adults who are given adult sentences, like probation or boot-camp are twice as likely to re-offend as similar youth who are sentenced to juvenile justice programs. Ironically, the study comes at a time when the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice has proposed budget cuts that would prevent judges from sentencing youth who are tried as adults to the more effective juvenile programs.

The study, produced by Dr. Craig A. Mason, formerly of the University of Miami (now with the University of Maine) found that over a one-year period, almost 90% of the youth sentenced to adult probation or boot camp re-offended or violated the terms of their sentences. In contrast, 40% of youth who received juvenile justice sanctions (mostly year-long juvenile residential programs or probation) re-offended or violated their sentences. When compared with youth given adult sanctions, the youth given juvenile justice sanctions had lower re-offense rates, even when they had similar delinquency histories and charges.

“The study shows that when judges sentence youth to developmentally-appropriate services and programs, they are less likely to re-offend than youth given cookie-cutter adult sentences,” says Dr. Craig Mason, author of the study. “We should do what we can to bring down youth re-offense rates. Funding solutions that are proven effective makes sense, both in terms of saving taxpayer money and reducing the number of victims.

The data for the study was collected by Dr. Mason as part of an evaluation of the Juvenile Sentencing Advocacy Project (JSAP), a program initially funded by the U.S. Justice Department and managed by the Miami-Dade County Public Defender’s Office. The JSAP collected, analyzed and provided information that helped adult court judges make informed sentencing decisions. According to an evaluation of JSAP in the first year of the program, the number of youth receiving juvenile court sanctions increased 350% from 1998 to 1999. Despite the savings Florida accrues by lowering the number of youth prison and jail admissions by reducing re-offense rates, the Department of Juvenile Justice's proposed budget for fiscal year 2002-2003 would require that youth tried as adults could only receive adult sanctions.

The JSAP presents more in-depth assessments of the youth’s background, tells the story of the youth’s life experience and provides key information on their development which judges, and prosecutors can use in deciding whether juvenile court sanctions are appropriate. The U.S. Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Assistance provided funding for the project, and experts from the American Bar Association's National Juvenile Defender Center and the Sentencing Project in Washington, D.C. helped develop the JSAP.

“Florida is first among the states in transferring youth to adult court,” says Patricia Puritz, Director of the National Juvenile Defender Center. “Instead of denying transferred youth important rehabilitation opportunities, Florida should be trying to bring down re-offense rates by strengthening and funding effective juvenile programs.”

For more information on the JSAP program or to download a full-copy of the study, click on the links below. If you have any questions, contact Gale Lewis at 305/545-1600 or Dr. Craig Mason at craig.mason@umit.maine.edu.

 

JSAP 2001 Study: Re-Offense Rates Among Youth Sentenced in Adult Court

Analysis of JSAP's Multi-disciplinary Approach in Defending Youth

JSAP 2000 Project Evaluation

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Law Offices of the Public Defender
Eleventh Judicial Circuit of Florida

 

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