For the purposes of this paper, I would like to center my research question around the topic of criminal justice courts and their relationship to young offenders. As such, the following research question will guide my studies: Which criminal court helps decrease the recidivism rate of juveniles and why? In conducting my research, I plan on investigating how criminal agencies affect juveniles in two regards: socially and psychologically. The following key questions will help me focus my research: How do criminal justice courts sentence young offenders holistically? What is the effect of incarceration on young offenders? How do young offenders return from life behind bars and how does this so-called “re-entry” into life impact them? Most importantly, is incarceration affecting juvenile offenders more negatively than what public opinion may think? How do criminal courts differ around the world in their treatment of juvenile offenders? By correlation, which model may help us understand how to effectively target juvenile recidivist rates in a healthy manner?

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In analyzing this research question, I will be using the following main keywords: “incarceration”, “rehabilitation”, “juvenile”, and “recidivism”. Sub keywords will include “positive and negative impacts”, “socially” and “psychologically”.

Definition of key terms
Recidivism can be defined as the reoccurring element of a criminal act or deviant behavior (Gendreau, 1996). Harris et al. (2011) propose that recidivism is determined by the following two elements: 1) the commission of an offense, 2) by an individual already identified having committed at least one other offense. In analyzing recidivism, my goal is to understand why criminal acts tend to be repeated and to propose a comprehensible solution to help deter reoccurring acts in the future. Rehabilitation can be defined as treatments or solutions that have been set up to deter the issue at hand (Greenwood, 2008). That being said, many definitions of rehabilitation exist, but all tend to focus on the need to discourage the offender from breaking the law in the future (Cullen & Gendreau, 2000). Studying incarceration rates remain an interesting and valuable option for the modern researcher as incarceration rates have spiked throughout the United States in the last generation (Dumont et al., 2012). In light of this information, are incarcerations rates in the United States comparable to libertarian countries like Norway, which place emphasis on concepts like “restorative justice”? Are criminal courts doing more harm than good to offending juveniles in placing them in detention centers? As my research revolves around juveniles and their psychological and social well-being in criminal courts, I will be focusing my research on institutions such as juvenile detention centers and paying specific attention to juvenile incarceration rates and scholarly literature pertaining to how juveniles are being affected by incarceration in my reading.

It is my hope that my conclusions will shed significant light on my research question. By extension, I hope to provide my readers with a thorough understanding of the juvenile criminal system and to pinpoint direct causes of recidivism. Finally, I hope to clarify why certain criminal courts differ one from another around the world in their treatment of repeating offenders. At the same time, I hope to offer some valuable solutions and reference points to juvenile offenders who may find themselves trapped in the criminal justice court system.

  • Dumont, D. et al. (2012). Public Health and the Epidemic of Incarceration. Annual Review of Public Health, 33, 325-339. doi:  10.1146/annurev-publhealth-031811-124614
  • Gendreau, P. (1996). Offender Rehabilitation: What We Know and What Needs to be Done. Criminal Justice and Behavior, 23 (1), 144-161. doi: 10.1177/0093854896023001010
  • Gendreau, P. & Cullen, F. (2000). Assessing Correctional Rehabilitation: Policy, Practice, and Prospects. Criminal Justice 3, 109-175.
  • Harris, P. et al. (2011). Measuring Recidivism in Juvenile Corrections. Journal of Juvenile Justice, 1 (1).
  • Matsuda, K. (2009). The Impact of Incarceration on Young Offenders. U.S. Department of Justice.
  • Roberts, J. (2005). Sentencing Young Offenders. Criminology & Criminal Justice, 5(3), 211-232. Doi: 10.1177/1466802505055831
  • Steinberg, L. (2004). Reentry of Young Offenders from the Justice System: A Developmental Perspective. Youth Violence Juvenile Society, 2 (1), 21. doi:  10.1177/1541204003260045