Juvenile recidivism rates refer to the number of minors who get convicted of a crime, serve their time, and then later end up convicted and incarcerated again for another offense. Combating juvenile recidivism is a big challenge in the criminal justice system and involves a focus on the cause of juvenile criminal activity and providing juveniles the services they need to permanently leave crime behind. 

The impact of juvenile recidivism rates is an issue that students in an online Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice program will learn about. It’s also something they may focus on as working professionals. Many of those who earn a BS in Criminal Justice go one to work in the juvenile justice system, helping young people break the cycle of criminal behavior and become productive members of society. 

What Percentage of Juveniles Are Repeat Offenders? 

Unlike adult recidivism, no national figures are available for juvenile recidivism rates. However, a 2015 CSG Justice Center report investigated data from 39 states that track recidivism. It found juveniles far more likely than adults to commit another offense after release from jail. 

The highest juvenile recidivism rates were 76% within three years and 84% within five years. A study by Joseph Doyle, a researcher at the Massachusetts Institute for Technology, found that 40% of juvenile offenders ended up in adult prison for crimes committed by the time they reached the age of 25. The study involved data from 30,000 juvenile offenders in Illinois. 

Incarceration also retailed the juveniles’ education. Doyle told Boston Magazine that he was surprised by “the size of the effects. We found that when kids went into juvenile detention, they were very unlikely to return to high school at all. Basically, none of them are graduating high school.” 

What Causes Juvenile Recidivism?  

Recidivism undercuts one of the main purposes of imprisonment, which is to serve as a deterrent to ever breaking the law again. As noted by psychology experts, common reasons for juvenile recidivism include:  

  • Incarcerated juveniles are more likely to meet other criminals, such as drug dealers, that require them to behave in a highly aggressive manner to avoid assault in prison. 
  • Incarceration interferes with a person’s ability to get a job because of the criminal record and because time in prison keeps them away from employment and the ability to gain skills. 
  • Incarceration can exacerbate existing mental health issues, and a “significant portion” of incarcerated people have a mental health condition. 

Many juvenile offenders are also in the child welfare system, according to the studies above, show a higher rate of recidivism.  

The system itself may also contribute to the issue. A research report from the State of New York found that high recidivism rates could be attributed to an inconsistent program approach, lack of program continuity when juveniles transition from residential confinement to aftercare, and lack of support systems as youth move into young adulthood. 

Ways to Reduce Juvenile Recidivism 

Some experts now promote intervention rather than incarceration to help reduce juvenile recidivism rates. A study on the issue found that juveniles are 38% less likely to return to crime if they enter a restorative justice program rather than becoming incarcerated. 

Different states have created a variety of programs. While differing somewhat in approach, they all tend to focus on working with juvenile offenders to improve their lives rather than incarcerating them. This includes a focus on therapy. Some of the common approaches in programs to reduce juvenile recidivism include:  

  • Family Therapy 
  • Aggression replacement training 
  • Providing juveniles with supportive role models 
  • Supporting families in removing negative influences 

 A Washington State Institute for Public Policy study showed that just aggression replacement training alone caused juvenile recidivism rates to drop  16 percent.