Juvenile Incarceration Can Lead to More Crime, Study of Chicago Youth Finds


Juvenile incarceration can increase crime, economist Joe Doyle of the MIT Sloan School of Management tells the Chicago Tribune. “If you’re sentenced to juvenile incarceration,” he said, “you’re twice as likely to go into adult prison by 25.” Doyle and Anna Aizer of Brown University collected data from 35,000 adolescents who committed crimes in Chicago in the 1990s. They studied which offenders were incarcerated and which weren’t. They then compared which ones wound up in prison as adults.

They did their best to compare teenagers who were legitimately comparable, those of the same age, same race, same crime and same neighborhood. The researchers found that te judge makes a difference. Some judges are relatively lenient. Some are strict. So one offender goes home with an ankle monitor and a curfew while a similar offender gets locked up with a bunch of other troublemakers, removed from family, church, routine and school. Another conclusion: If you get locked up, your odds of dropping out of school increase. “You’re supposed to be going to school while you’re there,” Doyle says of the juvenile facility, “but kids aren’t there very long, so it’s not like teachers are investing in new education plans for them.”

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