Determining Effectiveness of the Courts Using County-Specific Recidivism Rates of Juvenile Offenders

Emerging Leader Fellow: Justine Taylor, 2011-2012

Very few states have the capacity to effectively track and analyze the recidivism rates of juvenile offenders to inform decision making.  With the development of the Juvenile Case Management System (PaJCMS), administered by the Juvenile Court Judges’ Commission (JCJC), Pennsylvania now has one of the most effective systems for collecting juvenile delinquency data. The challenge is that the data has never been analyzed to measure effectiveness and advance practices that reduce recidivism. JCJC collects juvenile delinquency data related to approximately 100,000 juvenile court dispositional records on an annual basis. In conjunction with an overall System Enhancement Strategy developed by the JCJC and its system partners, the agency is developing the methodology and capacity to track the statewide recidivism rates of juvenile offenders within both the criminal and juvenile justice systems. This capacity does not currently exist in the Commonwealth.

The initial phase of this project will establish a benchmark against which the full Strategy roll-out will be measured. The Stoneleigh fellow will assist the JCJC in compiling, analyzing and reporting the results of the recidivism research, and in analyzing related data. She will help provide information about the outcomes of youth who received dispositions in 2007. All features of who, what, where and how long the youth received services will be considered when looking at whether he/she recidivated during the following two years. This information, never before available, will then be shared with every county Juvenile Court. 

JCJC believes that recidivism, at this stage, is the most critical indicator for policymakers, though ultimately they will build the dataset to study well-being outcomes such as educational attainment and employment.