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US: Pathways to Desistance: A Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Offenders

1st April 2011

This report, from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention in the US, is a significant study on how young people steadily desist from crime over time. The study followed 1,354 serious young offenders between the ages of 14-18 and monitored their progress to desistance and their persistence to offend.

The main finding from the report included;

  • that the majority of young people who committed serious crimes desisted from offending in the first 3 years of coming into contact with the criminal justice system, 
  • that longer community supervision sentences resulted in lower levels of offending as young people could engage in work or school,
  • that longer stays in institutions did not affect the rate of re-offending by young people, and in some circumstances, young people with low levels of offending actually increased their rates after stays in institutions,
  • substance mis-use programmes reduced offending and drug and alcohol abuse in the short term. 

The study concluded that two factors that separated reformed offenders from persistent ones were lower levels of substance mis-use and greater engagement in a structured routine, through either work or school and having stable living arrangements.

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