Recidivism — committing future crimes — is a focus of juvenile justice and criminal law. How do we keep the person from reoffending? How do we keep our communities safe from career delinquents and criminals? These are often the key questions for juvenile courts when considering a State’s motion to waive jurisdiction, which requests that the child’s case be moved to adult criminal court. Many of the waiver statutes ask about the “best interest of the safety and welfare of the community? See IC 31-30-3-2, IC 31-30-3-3, IC 31-30-3-4, IC 30-30-3-5.
The Indiana Department of Correction (IDOC) publishes statistics on recidivism rates for both the adult IDOC and the Division of Youth Services (DYS). Interestingly, a child placed at DYS is less likely to reoffend than an adult placed at IDOC. The 2012 Indiana Department of Correction Adult Recidivism Rates showed the overall recidivism rate was 36.1%, which was an unprecedented low, falling from 39.3% in 2010. Recidivism is defined by IDOC as “a return to incarceration within three years of the offender’s date of release from a state correctional institution.” The document also noted that the “younger the offender is at the time he/she is released, the more likely they are to return to IDOC.”
In contrast, Juvenile Recidivism 2012 notes the juvenile recidivism rate was 34%. Perhaps more significant is the statistic that “78.2% of juvenile releases had not been incarcerated in an Adult [sic] facility within 3 years of their 2009 release from a Juvenile [sic] institution.” Another way of saying that is only 21.8% of juveniles released in 2009 were committed to IDOC or another adult correctional facility within three years of their release from DYS.
While there are few scholarly papers on recidivism specific to Indiana children, the DOC statistics are helpful. Of interest is also a recently published paper concerning children in Illinois. Juvenile Incarceration, Human Capital, and Future Crime: Evidence from Randomly-Assigned Judges by Anna Aizer and Joseph J. Doyle, Jr., argues that locking up juveniles may lead to more crime and be counterproductive to the rehabilitative goal. See also this Chicago Tribune article.