Juvenile Recidivism and Rehabilitation: Study of Former Incarcerated Juveniles

Subject: Law
Pages: 12
Words: 6660
Reading time:
35 min
Study level: PhD


Juvenile offenders have been prone to re-offend and the rates of juvenile recidivism have been very high in the United States. There are several reasons which have been suggested for juvenile offending, including the lack of successful and positive educational environments and economic opportunities (Khromina, 2007, Siegel & Welsh, 2008). The efficacy of prison rehabilitation programs has been a controversial subject because they have not been successful in reducing recidivism rates. This is not only the case in the United States but in Britain as well (Howell, 2003).

For some of the offenders, the juvenile Justice system is nothing more than free food, showers and no responsibilities (Youth Advisory Council, 2008, p. 5). Providing such service, it can be said that at the same time, prison programs have not been very successful in reducing the recidivism rates, since 56.5% of released offenders were re-incarcerated within 3 years of their release (Genuario, 2009). Therefore, an examination of the present juvenile justice system is proposed in this study, analyzing the efficiency of rehabilitative programs, through the perspectives of former prisoners and juvenile offenders.

Statement of the Problem

The efficacy of juvenile prisons has been a controversial subject due to the variation in the outcomes of such programs. With each program constructing its own criteria for measurement, i.e. re-offend, re-arrest, re-incarceration, the effectiveness of a program can be in question. At the same time, even such indicator as to the rearrest rates across several studies with an average in several states to be 55% (Snyder & Sickmund, 2006, p. 234), is a sign of warning. Re-offending among juvenile offenders appears to be high, not only in the United States but also in Britain. Hagell (2002) found that 88% of British juvenile offenders were prone to recidivism within about two years after their release from custody. Such high statistical figures for juvenile recidivism suggest that rehabilitation and correction programs available for young offenders through the prison experience may be largely ineffective in achieving the desired objectives. The problem of juvenile recidivism is existent and actual, where the high rates are statistically supported through research (Lewis, et al., 1994; Hagell, 2002; Heilbrun, Goldstein & Redding, 2005). Accordingly, the problem is related not only to the crime level, in which incarceration can be seen as the method of protecting the society but also through economical rationale, in which the high costs of reincarceration can be seen as a problem of public policy and taxpayers. The findings regarding recidivism rates and reasons illuminate the need for effective rehabilitation programs, rather than assessing the perceptions of existing programs, currently implemented in retrospective.

Fader (2008) outlined the lack of empirically supported research into the interventions of Juvenile treatment facilities, which considering the costs of juvenile crime in general, $25 billion as of 1999 (Rutherford, Quinn, & Mathur, 2004, p. 87), the need for an expansion into the field of juvenile offence can be obvious. Among the interesting contributions in examining the experience of juvenile offences can be seen through the findings in Ashker and Kenny (2008). These findings outlined the fact that the experience of incarceration does place juvenile inmates into a position of readiness to accept positive changes and modify their conduct; prison fails to provide these inmates with the skills they need to bring about these changes (Ashker & Kenny, 2008). However, the negative feelings and emotions outlined as one of the factors contributing to the high rates of recidivism can be seen as confounding factors, eliminating the possibility of an assessment of the causes of recidivism outside the prison setting. Therefore, the problem is the lack of knowledge on the effectiveness of rehabilitative programs in the retrospective of former juvenile offenders.

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of this phenomenological study is to understand the phenomenon of rehabilitative programs, experienced by juveniles in Connecticut, which might lead to recommending changes in juvenile prison programs. The data will provide the possibility to interpret and translate the experiences of the participants into meaningful reflections. The phenomenon will be the participants’ experience in incarceration under rehabilitative programs, and how this experience influenced their lives after the program. This study will interview former juvenile inmates of the only juvenile prison in Connecticut and who are now over the age of 18. This will be used as the basis to discover if former inmates have actually gained benefits from prison programs. In view of their incarceration experience, these former inmates would be in a position to discuss and provide input relating to their prison experience, including what was lacking and what areas of the prison system could be improved.

Research Questions

In view of their incarceration experience, former inmates would be in a position to express their views about their prison experience, including what was lacking and what could be improved. This study proposes to gain an understanding into how such prison programs could be improved by identifying some of the problem areas, based upon the perception of former inmates. The central question of the study will be: What was the experience like for the participants of the rehabilitative programs during their incarceration period. The subquestions that will be derived from the main question during the interview are: a) what are the causes that the participants feel contributing to them being out of prison? b) How the programs influence these causes? c) What programs or elements of the program were perceived as the most successful; d) what programs or elements of the program were perceived as the least successful; e) what areas hinder the program or elements of the program from being beneficial?

The questions will be asked during in-depth open-ended interviews, where the participants can express their experience, being guided through the aforementioned questions, exploring the themes and the essences of incarceration experience, in order to understand how the participants perceived rehabilitative programs, and their outcomes.

Definition of Key Terms

  • Aggravated assault. Aggravated assault refers to “an unlawful attack by one person upon another wherein the offender uses a weapon or displays it in a threatening manner” (Wortley & Smallbone, 2006, p. 100).
  • Antisocial behavior. Antisocial behavior refers to an act committed by an individual that is contrary to the society’s norms, expectations, and standards of behavior. Antisocial behaviors differ from one society to another and from one community to another due to variations in cultures (Gale, 2009).
  • Armed robbery. A robbery is defined as “the taking of personal property from another person by force” (Wortley & Smallbone, 2006). An armed robbery therefore involves a weapon used in the process of the robbery.
  • Criminal activities. A crime is generally defined as “the commission or omission of an act which the law forbids or commands for the protection of the public and which is made punishable by the state,” (Siegel, 2008). Criminal activities are therefore deeds which are contrary to the law of the land and which lead to punishment by the state.
  • Criminal justice system. A criminal justice system is a system that is comprised of the police, the courts, the prisons, and other correctional institutions. The criminal justice system protects the public from criminals and ensures that criminals are punished in accordance with the crimes they have committed. The system also ensures that justice is provided to all those who are suspected of having committed a crime (Siegel, 2008).
  • Felony. A felony is a serious crime the commission of which may lead to punishment either through the death sentence or through imprisonment in a state facility (Siegel, 2008).
  • Habitual criminals. These are persons who repeatedly commit acts which are prohibited by the law of the land (Wortley & Smallbone, 2006).
  • Juvenile delinquency. Juvenile delinquency refers to “the commission of acts forbidden by law, committed by children under the age of 18 years,” (Siegel, 2008, p. 37). Juvenile delinquency is similar to crime but differs in the age of the person committing the act. Delinquencies are committed by persons under the legal age of maturity (this age differs from one country to another). A crime on the other hand is committed by persons over the legal age of maturity.
  • Juvenile justice system. Juvenile justice system refers to “an institution which the society has developed for the purpose of socializing and controlling children, particularly lower-class city children” (Wortley & Smallbone, 2006). This institution is similar to the criminal justice system discussed above but differs in two major ways. First, the juvenile justice system handles only juvenile offenders while the criminal justice system handles adult criminals. Secondly, the main objective of the juvenile justice system is to rehabilitate the juvenile offenders back into the society while the main objective of the criminal justice system is to punish criminals.
  • Juvenile offenders. This term is similar in meaning to juvenile delinquents. Juvenile offenders are persons under the legal age of maturity who commit deeds which are contrary to the law (Gale, 2009).
  • Juvenile prison. A juvenile prison is a facility used to confine persons under the legal age of maturity who have committed an act that is contrary to the law (Gale, 2009).
  • Misdemeanor. A misdemeanor refers to a common name for every sort of criminal offense that does not in law reach to the grade of a felony (Siegel, 2008). Unlike a felony, a misdemeanor is a less serious crime which does not cause any grave harm to a person’s life or property. As a result, a person who commits a misdemeanor is not usually sentenced to death or life imprisonment. Punishments for misdemeanors usually involve fines.
  • Offending. To offend is to commit an act that is contrary to the law of the land.
  • Recidivism. Recidivism refers to the repeatedly commission of an act that is contrary to the law of the land (Siegel, 2008).
  • Recidivist. A recidivist is a person who repeatedly commits an act that is contrary to the law of the land (Siegel, 2008).
  • Rehabilitation program. A rehabilitation program is a program that is used to help juveniles and criminals to correct their behaviors and to become productive members of the society. Rehabilitation programs are of different varieties and include educational programs, vocational programs and employment programs (Gale, 2009).

Brief Review of the Literature

There is a wide variation in the approaches implemented to study juvenile offences in general and juvenile recidivism in particular. In that regard, it can be stated that the selected method of research directly correlates with the nature of the findings and the purpose of the study. The prevalence of quantitative data is prevailing in the studies can be explained through the approach of measuring effectiveness through statistics. Nevertheless, the following section will attempt to outline the findings of both methods. The findings are categorized into the themes of juvenile offences, recidivism, data collection used for analysis, and rehabilitation programs.

Juvenile Offences

Juvenile delinquency refers to the crimes and offences committed by the minors within a social set up. Since crime is a social phenomenon and exists in every society, the political authorities devise laws and implement them in order to protect the individuals from harm, perversion, and delinquent behavior. Children are the future builders of societies and better care, education and training of them is extremely necessary for the progress and uplift of the nation at large. To prevent the juveniles from getting involved in criminal activities and rehabilitate the offenders after committing crimes, the criminal justice system has been introduced, which looks to recover and recuperate the offenders in a systematic and organized way. Theories have been articulated and researches have been conducted for discovering biological, sociological, and psychological causes behind perversion.

Quantitative approaches

Gewirtz (2007) conducted a comprehensive study under the title Recidivism among Juvenile Offenders in New York City. She made comparative analyses among different boroughs of the city and concluded the very fact that the re-arrest rate of juveniles is very high because of the inappropriate prevailing prison system. More than three-quarters of the juveniles, Gewirtz submits, were re-arrested within four years and a half were re-arrested for a VFO in that time. The data suggest that juveniles processed in Manhattan are less likely to be re-arrested shortly after their initial release than were juveniles processed in the other boroughs, although the overall re-arrest rate is not lower for Manhattan juveniles (Gewirtz, 2007). She also found that recidivism among male offenders is far higher than the female juveniles due to the fact that males obtain free food and residence at jails, which saves them from working to earn their bread. The researcher also indicated that the crimes like robbery, theft and rape are the most repeated crimes among juvenile offenders. Gewirtz looked for the review of prison policies, so that the probabilities of the repetition of crimes could be mitigated among the juveniles.

The Programs

The studies offer to increase the level of understanding into how these prison programs may be improved by determining and classifying some of the troublesome spheres. Originally, the authors of the papers suggest that the main accent on the prison programs should be placed on the matters of implementing these programs as it would help to foster the improved dynamics of the psychological traits, which feature the imprisonment in general and adolescent imprisonment in particular.

Quantitative approaches

Berends, Vinkelvleugel, and Bijl (2008) conducted their research on the topic relevant to the causes of the recidivism of crimes among juvenile delinquents. They have given their valuable suggestions for the elimination of crime repetition and the reformative measures to be applied to protect the children from becoming jailbirds for the future years to come. The researchers strongly recommend electronic monitoring of the offenders at prison houses as well as at psychiatric centers for regulating the activities of the young offenders. It would be highly supportive in providing them the guideline for their rehabilitation and counseling. The counselor and psychiatrist can devise their strategies keeping in view the activities and longings of the young offenders (Tewksbury & Stengel, 2006). The researchers cite the example of electronic monitoring used by psychiatrists on different occasions during the recovery processes of patients and offenders. An evaluation has been conducted on pilot studies that use Electronic Monitoring at five Forensic Psychiatric Centers (FPC) and four Correctional Institutions for Juvenile Offenders (JJIs). During the pilot studies between September 2007 & May 2008, data were collected on the development of the use of Electronic Monitoring during times of leave, based on evaluation forms, which proved very useful with the treatment of the patients (Byer & Kuhn 2007).

Incarceration Processes

Quantitative approaches

The majority of the research concentrated on juvenile crime and court procedures over these criminals which have mainly focused on the flows of the processes, on the psychology of minor criminals. De La Torre (1997) emphasized that previous research on the issue of juveniles processed in the adult courts in New York City mainly compared the juveniles processed in the Supreme Court in Manhattan with those who were processed in the Supreme Court in Queens. In fact, all the defendant features and arrest and disposition charges were analogous in these two courts; however, there were essential differences in the way cases were prosecuted. Yet the research showed virtually no difference between the courts in the number of juveniles who were re-arrested at any time during or after the completion of the study case (De La Torre, 1997).

Originally, the findings of the author revealed essential rates of re-arrest. It is stated that at least two-thirds of the juveniles had been re-arrested within four years after their first arrest (Coleman, Kim, Mitchell-Herzfeld & Shady, 2006). The only difference in these rates is the periods between the first and the second arrest. Moreover, it is stated that if the arrest was caused by drug issues, the likelihood of re-arrest increased up to 70% (Ashkar & Kenny, 2008). It is necessary to mention that these studies can be divided into two parts: the first category entails work that provide the research related to all five boroughs of New York City court processes. The second category focuses on the reasons for arrest, independent of the geography of crime. The seriousness of the initial re-arrest ranged so widely, from narcotics possession and trespass charges through robbery, assault, and even homicide charges are added as a second measure of recidivism and tracked the juveniles’ time at risk to a violent felony offense.

Qualitative approaches

A study, conducted by Reno, Marcus, Leary, & Gist (2000) stated that keeping juvenile offenders in adult prison housing has increased the percentage of recidivism among juvenile prisoners. Reno et al believe that keeping young males and females with adults encourages young offenders in becoming habitual criminals and most of the youth who are kept with senior criminals commit offenses after being released from the prisons. The list of offenses Reno et al note deemed serious enough for the transfer of youth as young as age 14 includes crimes such as murder, aggravated assault, armed robbery, and rape, and less serious offenses such as aggravated stalking, lewd and lascivious assault, or other acts in the presence of a child, violation of drug laws near a school or park, sodomy, and oral copulation. The young prisoners’ repetition of committing such crimes is the result of their association with adult prisoners (Reno, et al., 2000). The researchers have cited historical events that vehemently support the very notion that weak and young males are raped by adult prisoners in the prison houses. Consequently, they try to take revenge from society by committing the same crimes they had been victimized, as soon as they are released from prisons. Further, the researchers appreciate the establishment of separate prison houses in the USA that may be helpful in the rehabilitation process of juvenile offenders. In the aspect of the imprisonment experience, data is mainly collected on a volunteer basis, where imprisoned inmates are interviewed on the matter of imprisonment, their impressions, and views about imprisoning including what was lacking and what could be improved (Kupchik, 2007).


In order to understand recidivism, many theories and views have been proposed for examining the reasons for its high rates. The high rates of juvenile recidivism are statistically supported through research (Lewis, et al., 1994; Hagell, 2002), but a corresponding level of research into improving prison programs is lacking (Fader, 2009). The present area of research into the phenomena of recidivism outlines that the most useful analyses include a wide range of events, associated with the act of reoffending. In that regard, regardless of a subsequent event, e.g. reincarceration, referral to court, or rearrest, the basis of analyzing recidivism is the act of offence itself.

Quantitative approaches

Common elements contributing to recidivism are the seriousness of the offence and the severity of the punishment (Siegel & Welsh, 2008). Such quantitative findings serve a statistical purpose, whereas descriptive information can be seen disconnected with such findings. The characteristics of the offenders also played a role, where most of the juvenile recidivism is related to immoral crimes including rape, sodomy, exhibitionism, oral sex, and others. It is fact beyond doubt that sexual pleasures particularly fascinate the young members of society, they often commit sexual offences; against which the prison-house can hardly create any barrier. Sentencing Guidelines Commission of Washington has also published its annual report by presenting data related to the repetition of crimes by young prisoners. The report describes that a large number of criminals feel pleasure in repeating their crimes and can seldom be treated or cured within the environment of jails. Since their stay at prisons has removed their fear regarding loss of status or comforts, they feel no hesitation in committing the same crimes which have caused their humiliation in the past. A portion of recidivists includes a group of offenders whose current criminal behavior was the same type as that committed at least once in the past. These offenders are often referred to as habitual offenders, though state statutes normally apply this term to persons who are frequently arrested for any criminal behavior (Reno, et al., 2000).

Qualitative approaches

In Ashker and Kenny (2008), the usage of phenomenology study outlined factors irrelevant to the punishment or the initial offence such as the promotion of antisocial behavior, the negative feelings, and the culture in prison and substance use. Neither of the latter can be connected to the length of the incarceration nor to the initial offence, with the possible exception of sexual offenders. The proposition of remedy to eliminate those factors was proposed in providing offence-specific treatment, psychological treatment, counseling, education, vocational training, and social skills training (Ashker & Kenny, 2008). Similar to Kupchik (2007), most of the studies address relevant questions, such as;

  1. Whether they have re-offended; If yes, the reasons for recidivism.
  2. How their prison experience contribute to or detract from the recidivism?
  3. What are the problem areas in prison programs, which are making them ineffective?
  4. How these programs could be improved?


Prison programs for young offenders are meant to address many things such as determine the cause of crime, consequences, and how to control and stop the behavior completely. The necessary skills for solving problems, monitoring behavior, and controlling aggression are helpful to individuals and peers; for them to set their goals and develop a means of achieving them through proper utilization of the time available to them. If the results of the programs are not seen, then there is a failure in the program. The programs usually work better if the staff officials offering them believe that it is efficient, but if there is any doubt, in those who offer the program then typically it will fail. The programs should be delivered the way they are designed and meant to be delivered by the trained instructors so that they can be successful. If the current programs are not achieving their desired results then they must be either altered to achieve the wanted results or be eliminated. The goal of this research is just that. The review of current programs that are effective and improving upon them and eliminating those programs that are not successful as well as devising new programs that may fill in any gaps that are left in rehabilitating the youth of our society. Reintegrating offenders into society, preventing recidivism and accomplishing that within a reasonable budget are the ultimate goal of any prison program. If the programs for young offenders are successful then recidivism will drop as well as the costs of incarceration since fewer individuals will commit offenses.

As for the drawbacks, it should be mentioned that the majority of the research papers are limited by the absence of data in several areas. There is an essential lack of data on the matters of characteristics of the juvenile in the perspective of educational and family aspects. The papers are short of data on describing the characteristics of the original arrest in terms of the juvenile’s relationship to the victim and whether the adolescent was acting alone or jointly with others. Yet, if the papers are incorporated in a single research, the results of the researches and interviews, and the data of the re-arrest models will offer that the way juvenile cases are processed in courts with its emphasis on placement programs under court management may not only delay the primary re-arrest but also may decrease the likelihood of re-arrest for the most harmful offenses. Additionally, it can be seen that the literature indicates a gap in qualitative data regarding the assessment of rehabilitation programs. The reliance on statistical data, such as recidivist rates can be seen lacking, as it was mentioned that many systems tend to emphasize successes rather than failures, while specific elements of programs are not addressed.

Research Method

The problem of juvenile recidivism and the effectiveness of the rehabilitation programs is a subject of controversy, where on the one hand, recidivism rates contain variations, due to different methods of assessment. On the other hand, their estimation nevertheless, outlines recidivism as an existing problem, proving the fact that such programs are ineffective. The estimation of recidivism, its causes and programs’ effectiveness are directly related to the selection of an appropriate method of investigation. In that regard, the reliance on recidivism rates as a measurement of the program’s success does not allow having an insight of a first-hand perspective of the rehabilitative experience. Such insight can be obtained through a phenomenological, which will be used to answer the central question of the study, i.e. describe the incarceration experience in regard to the rehabilitation programs. Accordingly, the subquestions derived from the aforementioned question will be used to identify the perceptions of the participants on the causes of recidivism as well as assess the effectiveness of the rehabilitation program in a juvenile prison in Connecticut. In that regard, this section will be devoted to the discussion of the methods for conducting the study, in terms of design, participants, data collection, and analysis.

Research Method and Design

The method used for this study was a qualitative method, in which information of the experiences of formerly incarcerated offenders in Connecticut juvenile prisoners will be collected through in-depth open-ended interviews and focus group discussions using interview scripts, tape and video recorders, and notes. The usage of a qualitative method is justified through its facilitation of studying the issues in question in-depth and in detail (Patton, 2002). Unlike quantitative methods, qualitative methods do not report or identify a relation through standardized measures, but rather explain an existing issue. Accordingly, open-ended interviews are used as a method, due to their ability to express aspects, which cannot be directly observed (Patton, 2002), through the perspective of the participant. In the present case, the perspective of the participants of the study is significant, providing their first-hand experience of the issues in question.

The selection of phenomenology as research design can be explained through an overview of the underlying concepts of phenomenology and their relation to the purpose of the study. Welman and Kruger define phenomenology as the concern with understanding social and psychological phenomena from the perspective of the people involved (Groenewald, 2004). Additionally, Giorgi states that the operative word in phenomenological research is “describe” (Groenewald, 2004). Combining both concepts, it can be seen that phenomenology helps understanding, through the description. It is difficult to understand the phenomena of incarceration and recidivism in a way other than describing them through people who have knowledge of the phenomena. In that regard, obtaining a description of the phenomena in question from formerly incarcerated juveniles will best fulfill the purpose of the study, i.e. understanding the causes of recidivism in relation to the influence of rehabilitation programs in juvenile prisons. The appropriateness of phenomenology can be simply explained in that a phenomenon is the core of the research, i.e. juvenile rehabilitation programs.

Participants and Sampling Techniques

The participants in phenomenology studies are those who lived the experience of the phenomena in question, and thus, the participants are selected to include former inmates of the Connecticut juvenile prison who were incarcerated as juveniles, and who are now over the age of eighteen. This group of previous offenders, who may have committed one or more offences in the past comprise the target population for this study. The identification of the target population was done based on two major facts: the easy accessibility of records of past and present inmates of the prison; and the fact that the Connecticut Juvenile Prison has in the past two decades undertaken numerous reforms that have facilitated the incorporation of supportive and essential services (such as family intervention programs) that address the developmental needs of juvenile delinquents. A small purposive sample of 20 individuals will be selected from the target population to facilitate in-depth interviews.

The participants of the study will be selected using purposive sampling, which rationale can be seen in selecting information-rich cases (Patton, 2002). Selecting participants based on their demographic and socio-economic factors will enable the researcher to take into consideration the influence of different socio-economic factors such as level of education, cultural and ethnic background, and household income on criminal tendencies. As a result, the participants of the study will include former inmates from different age groups, genders, different ethnic communities (Caucasians, African Americans, Hispanics, and Asian Americans), different household incomes, and different family structures (intact as well as dysfunctional families) at the time of incarceration. In order to accommodate all these groups, purposive sampling will be used to select the sample. This will ensure that only those participants who are most likely to make a significant contribution to the study are selected. In addition, the sampling technique provides focused information and saves time and money. The main disadvantage of purposive sampling is that it is not a probabilistic sampling technique and therefore any data collected from the sample cannot be used to generalize about the entire population. However, since the study is a qualitative one and its objective is to provide a rigorous academic analysis of the problem, this limitation of the chosen sampling technique does not pose any problem to the results of the study (Schutt, 2006).

Data Collection Techniques & Instruments

Data collection in qualitative researches might vary to include in-depth, open-ended interviews, direct observations and written documents (Patton, 2002). For phenomenology studies, the most common method of data collection is an interview, as it provides the possibility to understand the phenomenon in the own words of the people who experienced it (Groenewald, 2004). Interviews enable the researcher to understand the phenomena from the point of view of the participant, obtaining the description of the experience as it was experienced by the participants themselves (Groenewald, 2004). Open-ended questions allow the participants to act spontaneously in delivering their experiences, where the retrospective aspect of the phenomena will allow capturing the interviewers’ interrelations of the events during youth experience (Brunelle, Cousineau, & Brochu, 2005). In this study, the in-depth interview will be conducted with the use of an unstructured interview script administered by the researcher.

The interview script will contain both closed-ended and open-ended questions. Closed-ended questions are those which do not permit respondents to explain further. They include questions such as, “Have you ever been engaged in juvenile delinquency?”, “Do you have parents who have been actively involved with your life?”, “What is your highest education level?” among others. Open-ended questions are questions that allow respondents to give a detailed response through explanations and elaborations. Examples of open-ended questions include, “How can you describe your experience with the juvenile justice system?”, “Please explain any positive and negative impact the programs offered at the Connecticut Juvenile Prison had on you.” Open-ended questions enable the researcher to gain more information necessary for the study from the informants. The interview will not be conducted in any organized manner. Instead, the researcher will choose to ask questions in an order that he seems suitable to the informants depending on the direction the interview will take and, on the responses, given by the informants, as an “informal interview is a conscious attempt by the researcher to find out more information about the setting of the person” (Groenewald, 2004). The execution of an in-depth interview follows six basic steps.

The first step involves planning the manner in which the interviews will be conducted. In this study, the in-depth interviews will be conducted on an individual basis at the current residences of the participants. This will enable the researcher to obtain other important details pertaining to the participants. For instance, the type of participants’ homes can tell a lot about the current financial situation of the participants. The second step involves deciding who the informants will be. In this study, the informants will be twenty former inmates of the Connecticut juvenile prison who are now over the age of 18. The third step is the preparation of the interview script. The researcher should decide on the types of questions that will be asked during the interview making sure that the questions help to achieve the major objectives of the study. An important issue to be considered is the framing of the questions. Open-ended questions are most suitable for an in-depth interview because they will prompt the informants to explain their points in great detail (Leedy & Ormrod, 2005). The fourth and fifth steps involve the selection and training of the interviewers respectively. These steps are used if there is a need to have external interviewers (other than the researcher). The last step involves conducting the actual interviews with the informants at the selected setting and recording the collected data (Belk, 2006).

Focus groups are “an informal assembly of participants whose opinions are requested about a specific topic” (Stewart, Shamdasani & Rock, 2007). Focus groups as a method of data collection will classify the participants into smaller groups according to their ethnic origin, age, gender, and family structures. For this study, Caucasians, African Americans, Hispanics, and Asian Americans will be joined in a single group. The rationale for using a focus group can be seen in obtaining a clearer perspective from the participants, through leading discussion with participants who are racially and gender-mixed. In that regard, such groups will allow having a larger picture, rather than focusing on specifics that might be exceptions in each subgroup case. The researcher will then conduct discussions with the group to gain a deeper understanding of the factors that led the participants to engage in criminal behaviors, their rates of recidivism, and their lives after incarceration. The success of focus groups depends largely on their preparation (Bernard, 2005). The basic steps that need to be followed in focus group discussions include: preparation for each session, planning for the sessions, execution of the discussions according to the plan and recording them as they take place (Stewart, et al., 2007).

The first step involves preparation for each session. This stage involves the identification of the chief goals of each session, carefully developing the major questions to be discussed, and reminding each of the groups’ members of the session approximately three days before the session takes place. The second step is the planning stage which entails scheduling the duration of each session, preparing the setting of the discussions, making plans that will ensure that each of the group’s members takes part in the discussions and planning the recording of the discussions using a tape or video recorder. The last stage is the execution of the discussions according to the plan and recording them as they take place. Through these groups, the researcher will be able to understand how the prison experience has affected their lives and how effective (or not) the prison program is in correcting criminal behaviors among juveniles. Besides the interview, script and tape recorders used during the interviews and focus groups discussions, note-taking will also be used as a data collection instrument. Note-taking is useful to record the non-verbal communication and other observations which provide valuable additional information to the study (Stewart, et al., 2007).

Focus groups and in-depth interviews are relevant to this study in a number of ways. First, the two methods require that the researcher should establish a rapport with the informants. The informants should be able to trust the researcher while the researcher should have respect towards the informants irrespective of their conflicting beliefs (Babbie, 2009). This is because in-depth interviews and focus groups discussions are conducted through a close and personal interaction between the researcher and informants. Second, the two methods allow the researcher to clarify any vague responses given by the informants. They also enable him to dig deeper and probe further when he feels that the responses given are too short or inadequate and that the informants are holding back useful information. The informants also have the opportunity to provide additional information that they feel would be appropriate to the study (Charmaz, 2006). This is useful in any qualitative study because its main objective is to understand the thoughts, feelings, experiences, and opinions of the participants. This can only happen through an extensive interaction between the researcher and the informants.

Data coding, analysis

Analysis in qualitative research first involves coding the collected data. Coding of qualitative data entails the classification of the raw data into categories in an attempt to find existing relationships among the categories. Maxwell (2005) argued that coding involves the collection of the examples of a phenomenon and their analysis through differences, commonalities, and patterns. The creation of classifications however prompts the production of a theoretical scheme that is suitable to the data. The scheme assists the researcher to derive questions from the data, making comparisons of the data, altering the categories, eliminating some categories which are unnecessary, and arranging the categories in a hierarchical manner. It is important to recognize two separate, although interrelated, stages of data coding: one stage concentrates on the meaning of the data within the research, while the other concentrates on the meanings of the data that may be useful to external readers (Babbie, 2009).

The coding procedure in this study will implement the scheme outlined in Miles and Huberman (1994), where codes were attached to “chunks of varying size -words, phrases, sentences, or whole paragraphs, connected to a specific setting” (Miles & Huberman, 1994, p. 56). The data would be divided based on its nature, i.e. descriptive, requires interpretation, frequently reoccurring, etc. The categories that will be used in the study, include the method outlined in Lofland (1971), cited in Miles and Huberman (1994), as going from micro to macro, i.e. acts, activities, meanings, participation, relationships, and settings, with the latter representing the rehabilitative program, conceived as the unit of analysis (Miles & Huberman, 1994, p. 6). A journal will be kept during the whole process of transcribing the audio data of the interviews, to capture all the elements of the participants’ experiences.

The analysis of the data collected in this study will be conducted using several steps. The transcripts from the interviews and focus group discussions will be analyzed through thematic content analysis using a mixed coding chart. The themes will be derived from the research questions and conceptual framework. In the first phase, data reduction, the transcripts will be read and the text coded sentence by sentence in order to identify the main themes presented by the informants. In the second phase, data display, the themes identified by the informants will be classified into a conceptually clustered matrix (Flick, 2006). The cross-case analysis will then be used to establish any existing relationships between the themes and to identify converging (themes that are commonly identified and shared by the different groups of participants), diverging (themes that are commonly identified by the informants but whose application differ across the different groups of participants), and marginal themes (themes that are sporadically identified by some of the participants) (Bernard, 2005). Themes are common/similar input from the participants. The final phase will involve drawing conclusions, making inferences and providing recommendations to the juvenile prisons based on the findings. In this stage, the interrelationships between the converging, diverging, mirror, and marginal themes will further be examined and studied again in order to identify the major factors that cause juveniles to engage in criminal activities and to re-offend as well as the problematic areas of the juvenile prison and how the program can be improved to enhance its effectiveness.

The interpretations and the findings of the study will be provided for the participants for checking in order to check that their experiences were transferred correctly as well as correctly interpreted.


The qualitative design that is most applicable to this study is a qualitative phenomenological study. Data will be collected through in-depth interviews and focus group discussions using interview scripts, tape and video recorders and notes as the data collection instruments. The data collected will then be analyzed by first coding them and then drawing conclusions from the interrelated and divergent themes. It is hoped that these methods will enable the researcher to gain a deeper understanding of the problem under investigation.


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Annotated Bibliography

Ashkar, P. J., & Kenny, D. T. (2008). Views from the Inside: Young Offenders’ Subjective Experiences of Incarceration. International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, 52(5), 584-597.

This study set out to examine the incarceration experiences of juvenile offenders in a maximum-security detention facility. Using phenomenological descriptive methodology, semi structured interviews were carried out with 16 adolescent male detainees and recorded on audio cassettes. The study found that there was inadequate provision of services and rehabilitative programming at these prisons; while the incarceration experience placed detainees in a state of readiness for positive change, it failed to provide them with the necessary skills to actually bring about and sustain this change. This study corroborates the findings of other studies of offenders in juvenile prisons about the inadequacy of rehabilitative measures for offenders, to prevent recidivism.

Bradshaw, W., Roseborough, D., & Umbreit, M. S. (2006). The effect of victim offender mediation on juvenile offender recidivism: A meta-analysis. Conflict Resolution Quarterly, 24(1), 87-98. Web.

This article provides the results of a study of the effect of victim offender mediation (VOM) on the rates of juvenile recidivism. The article outlines the importance of VOM as a prevention and intervention program, providing an overview of the relative failure of previous programs. The author provides evidences from the findings of previous studies, in which the programs proved ineffective in reducing the rates of recidivism. The author argued that VOM, which is a face-to-face interacting meeting between the victim of a crime and the person or persons who victimized them (Bradshaw, Roseborough, & Umbreit, 2006), has the potential in reducing the crime rates. The study was conducted as confirmation for the findings of previous studies as well as eliminating their limitations. In that regard, analyses were conducted on 15 studies of 9,172 juveniles in twenty-one service sites in the United States. The result showed an average effect size of 0.34, compared to 0.10 in traditional justice program.

The findings of the results will be used in the present study as an expansion of the theoretical framework, in which the findings are indicative of the possible alternatives for the traditional prevention program. On the other hand, the recommendations provided for future studies, indicate the potential of considering VOM for another potential meta-analysis measuring the effectiveness of prevention programs. Additionally, the literature review in the article can be utilized in expanding the theoretical foundation of the study, in terms of success and failures of various programs, specifically outlining different classifications of these programs, e.g. behavioral therapy, multi-systemic therapy, child mental health programs, etc. The article is peer reviewed scholar resource, the authors of which are professors and associate professors in the social work field.

Byer, J. J. L., & Kuhn, J. (2003). A Model Response to Truancy Prevention: The Louisville Truancy Court Diversion Project. Juvenile and Family Court Journal, 54(1), 59-67.

This study has dealt with the fact that less than 10% of public school funding is available for school services, such as enforcing attendance and providing counseling. The lack of supervision may be one of the reasons why so many juveniles tend to offend in the first place. This study has shown how juvenile crime can be very expensive for the nation in terms of lost taxes and earnings. It has focused on the fact that most juvenile offenders also play truant from school and suggests that a truancy diversion program is implemented at schools, with funding secured from both public and private sources, in order to tackle truancy at the school level and prevent it from exploding into crime and further on into recidivism.

Truancy proceedings have already been implemented in Louisville, where the courts, school officials, service providers, and parents come together in truancy courts in order to addresses issues of discipline and truancy. The belief that truancy and consequent delinquency is preventable is the underlying thrust of these programs. This study is valuable in the context of the present research study because it could offer a means to address recidivism at its very roots by tacking the truancy that gives rise to delinquency and recidivism.

Fader, J. J. (2009). Juvenile Justice: A Case for Transparency and Research-Based Accountability. Changing Lives, Changing Minds, Web.

Fader discussed the failure of juvenile justice policies and the lack of adequate research in this area. It also points out that the author’s own research has indicated that juvenile offenders have difficulties integrating back into society. This article highlights the importance of more research into the causes of recidivism and measures to address it.

Greenwood, P. (2008). Prevention and Intervention Programs for Juvenile Offenders. Future of Children, 18(2), 185-210. Web.

This article provides an evaluation of the methods used in the identification of the best prevention and intervention programs for juvenile offenders. In addition to the evaluation, the author provides a review of the programs as well as the progress in their implementation. The main area of author’s focus is evidence based practice in prevention programs, in terms of benefits, challenges, and the methods used to review the programs in such practice. The author provides his opinion of an effective method of evaluation based on the characteristics of such programs as Blueprints for Violence Prevention, a research developed by the Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence at the University of Colorado. The requirements of the programs to be proven effective in juvenile crime reduction include continuous effects after leaving the program, replication on another site, and experimental design in demonstrating the effect of the program (Greenwood, 2008, p. 188). Other criteria of effectiveness include cost-benefit and reporting effects. The author generally author argues that design flaws and inconsistent findings are the main factors in the challenges of defining successful programs.

The article is beneficial in terms of its extensive classification of prevention programs as well as the outlined factors in deeming the program successful. The article will be used in the study through providing information for comparison, which will form the basis of the theoretical foundation of the study. Additionally, the guidelines provided by the author might be useful in providing recommendations on the methodologies of assessment and implementing the findings of studies in practice, as the author concluded “only about 5 percent of the youth who could benefit from these improved programs now have the opportunity to do so” (Greenwood, 2008, p. 205). The credibility of the article can be seen through the expertise of the author – Peter Greenwood, the founder of RAND Corporation, nonprofit institution dedicated to improving policy and decision making through research and analysis. The author provided numerous publications on the subject of crime prevention, delinquency, and juvenile justice.

Hagell, A. (2002). The mental health of young offenders – bright futures: working with vulnerable young people. London: Mental Health Foundation.

This study set out to explore the role of mental health disorders on juvenile offending. The research was carried out by the Mental Health Foundation, identifying four key groups of young people with emotional and behavioral difficulties as being at risk for offending. The study found that recidivism is more prevalent among young offenders with mental health problems, with young people from ethnic minorities being over represented.

Hansen, M. (2009). Keeping offenders behind bars burdens state budgets. McClatchy-Tribune Business News.

In this newspaper article, the author has highlighted the example of the state of Nebraska, which has spent $155 million on prisons of $95 per prisoner per day. As opposed to this, the State of Iowa spends the lowest percentage of its State budget on prisons, largely because of its focus on community based parole and probation programs which cost a fraction of imprisonment. This article is relevant to this study because it suggests that community based parole and probation programs may be more effective in the long run in terms of reducing recidivism, because it may prevent re-imprisonment of offenders. This may be applied in juvenile prisons, so that offenders can be monitored through parole and probation programs for a particular period until they are reintegrated into the society.

Hoge, R. D., Guerra, N., & Boxer, P. (2008). Treating the juvenile offender. New York: Guilford Press.

This book is mainly addressing the topic of juvenile delinquency and the problems of youth in the United States. The book consists of a collection of articles by different contributors form various fields, which includes, but not limited to crime and justice, sociology, correction and rehabilitation, and education. The book provides a theoretical basis for understanding youth offence, as a distinguished phenomenon, in terms of its causes and the current trends in the United States. The book also provides an analysis of the treatment programs and policies distinguishing between the general offending population and specific offending groups. In that regard, the book demonstrates that the efforts in treating juvenile offence can be seen through a combination of theory, research, and practice, while hindrances in effective implementation can be seen through the preoccupation of the public, taking the form of a fear of youth crime, and usually reflected in the media, amplifying the attention beyond its significance (Hoge, Guerra, & Boxer, 2008). The result of such hindrances might be seen through increased sanction, longer sentences, and the prosecution of young offenders as adults (Hoge, et al., 2008).

The book will mainly used in several perspectives, which include the addition to the section of prevention program reviews, found in chapter four, and theoretical overview of the causes of juvenile offending. In the case of the first perspective, recidivism will be overviewed, in terms of differences in definition and the resulting variances in the rates of crime as well as the role of the state and local agencies in the treatment of juvenile offenders, based on the example of the state of California. The book argues that the justice system in California combines unique factors, which can be seen reflected in the way the state is treating young offenders.

Jacobi, T. (2008). Writing for Change: Engaging Juveniles through Alternative Literacy Education. Journal of Correctional Education, 59(2), 71-94.

This article, written by a Professor of composition, suggests that alternative literacy, if included within prison programs, could provide a way to reduce recidivism rates by successfully engaging juveniles in education. She points out that without access to educational opportunities, recidivism in youth is probable. Conventional methods of teaching reading and writing are not successful in imparting those skills to young juveniles in school and it is the failure of traditional education that leads them into a life of crime in the first place, with the tendency to recidivism when they leave prison. She has also highlighted research which has suggested that through prison activities such as writing workshops, peer and professional mentoring programs and increased engagement with the publishing industry can not only meet the unique expectations of youth offenders but also enable working towards democratic principles that are held by correctional educators. Providing young juvenile offenders a means to develop skills in writing and reading that could help them survive economically in the outside world is thus likely to contribute to reducing recidivism. This article therefore directly addresses the research objective of examining how prison programs can be improved in order to reduce recidivism.

Kupchik, A. (2007). The Correctional Experiences of Youth in Adult and Juvenile Prisons. Justice Quarterly, 24, 247-270.

This study examines the experiences of juvenile prisons incarcerated through criminal courts to assess their access to education and treatment/counseling services. There were 95 respondents from five correctional institutions participating in this study. Some of the institutions, being exclusively juvenile facilities, were therefore smaller, with greater emphasis accorded to education, training, and counseling. The study however, found that juvenile inmates in adult prisons had better access to these facilities, suggesting that juvenile prisons are lacking in constructive measures to prevent recidivism.

Lewis D.O, Yeager C.A, Lovely R., Stein A. & Cobham-Porterreal, C.S. (1994). A clinical follow-up of delinquent males: ignored variables, unmet needs and the perpetuation of violence, Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 33: 518-28.

This study followed juvenile delinquents, nine years after their discharge from correctional facilities. Follow up clinical interviews were administered to 97 formerly incarcerated male delinquents. Most of these former offenders had been incarcerated for violent crimes and the study found that only 10% had graduated from high school while 30% had received minimal training. This study shows that former offenders may not be receiving the support they need to function effectively in society after being released from prison.

Nagin, D. S., Piquero, A. R., Scott, E. S., & Steinberg, L. (2006). Public preferences for rehabilitation versus incarceration of juvenile offenders: Evidence from a contingent valuation survey. Criminology & Public Policy, 5(4), 627-651. Web.

This article’s main purpose is measuring the inclination of the public toward alternative methods of treating juvenile offences, specifically a comparison between rehabilitation and incarceration as a preferred method. The article states that the policy is largely shaped in accordance to the public support or opposition, in which policy makers claim that the public demand tougher policies, to which they respond with punitive juvenile justice reforms. As a response to such claims, the authors provided the results of a study in which they measured the willingness of 1,500 randomly selected Pennsylvanian adults to pay for alternative methods of treatment. The result challenges the conventional view, which found greater willingness to pay for rehabilitation and even greater willingness to pay for an early childhood prevention program (Nagin, Piquero, Scott, & Steinberg, 2006). The discrepancy between the conventional views and these results are explained in the article as possible changes in attitudes of the public, declining crime rates and distorted images by the media.

The article can be used in the research through providing a confirmative support for the rehabilitation approaches in juvenile programs. The findings of the study can be used in the research for the same reason it was conducted in the first place, i.e. showing an inclination of the public toward rehabilitation versus incarceration. Accordingly, the policy implications provided in the article can be useful in showing possible different approaches for policymaking. Despite the usefulness, the limitations of the study will be also outlined, showing directions for further studies. Accordingly, the study will be useful addition in including cost-benefit analysis as a policy-making tool as well as assessment variable. The credibility of the article can be seen through the fact that it was numerously cited in scholarly articles, ranging in topics from public policy to criminology. Additionally, the article was included among the publications of such organizations as The National Juvenile Justice Network, Office of Juvenile Affairs, and the Agency of Human Services.

Ryan, J. P. (2006). Dependent Youth in Juvenile Justice: Do Positive Peer Culture Programs Work for Victims of Child Maltreatment? Research on Social Work Practice, 16(5), 511-519. Web.

This article focuses on assessing the risk of recidivism for juvenile offenders with a history of physical abuse and neglect. The study tests the accepted convention that the victims of abuse and neglect are more likely to engage in delinquent behavior. Additionally, the study focuses on the Positive Peer Culture (PPC) program, in order to assess its impact on the aforementioned offending population. The results showed that youth with a history of physical abuse and neglect were more likely to have a subsequent arrest (50% vs. 37%)” (Ryan, 2006), rendering the strategy of using PPC program less effective in dealing with dependent youth in juvenile justice system. The study outlines the factors that might affect the rate of recidivism for young offenders, where the factors were associated with the implementation of the PPC residential program, e.g. social psychology, as a group and as individuals, maltreatment, and others.

The findings of this study will be specifically useful in terms of its implications, such as the ineffectiveness of the social approach in preventive programs, possibly due to the difficulty in establishing social bonds for dependent youth, and the importance of after care service. In that regard, part of the recommendations, which will be given in the research, will focus on the periods after exiting the juvenile justice system. Additionally, the study will be helpful in addressing the issue of abuse and neglect as factors causing positive correlation with recidivism rates, outlining groups of risks for juvenile offenders.

Snyder, H. N., & Sickmund, M. (2006). Juvenile Offenders and Victims: 2006 National Report (Information Analyses). Washington, DC: Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

This report is an overwhelming informational resource on the current profile and status of juvenile crime in the United States. The report provides statistical data as a primary source of information such as profiles of juvenile victims and offenders, the demographics, types of juvenile crimes, and arrest and recidivism rates. The importance of the analysis of juvenile offenders can be seen through an increase in the juvenile population in general, which is projected to continue, where by 2050 the juvenile population will be 36% larger than it was in 2000.

The report is useful in that it covers every single aspect of juvenile crime in the United States, according to which the report might be used a s a source of national statistical data. An important source of information can be found in chapter seven, in which definitions and data provided regarding juvenile recidivism. Although there is no national data regarding recidivism, the report provides the data collected by The Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice (VDJJ) from 27 states across the country. The data provides interesting conclusions, specifically in terms of the difference s between re-arrest recidivism, reconviction recidivism and re-incarceration recidivism, in which the difference might reach 31 percentage points (Snyder & Sickmund, 2006, p. 235). Additionally, the report confirms the points related to program assessment methodologies, where “many jurisdictions around the country report success rates rather than recidivism rates” (Snyder & Sickmund, 2006, p. 235). The report can be regarded as credible resource, which is provided by the National Center for Juvenile Justice, citing FBI and other data sources.

Wells, J. B., Minor, K. I., Angel, E., & Stearman, K. D. (2006). A Quasi-Experimental Evaluation of a Shock Incarceration and Aftercare Program for Juvenile Offenders. Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice, 4(3), 219-233. Web.

This article present s the results of a study conducted measuring the effect of shock incarceration on juvenile offences. The study showed that combining juvenile after care programs with shock incarceration led to lower recidivism rates than in traditional programs. In that regard, the study although showing insignificant differences in re-offense seriousness, the study was largely confirming to previous literature in that field. The study emphasizes that the shock incarceration might be an effective component of juvenile programs, reducing the rates of recidivism.

The article is useful in providing a distinct approach to juvenile recidivism prevention, in which the literature review covered the theoretical foundation of such approach. Although the study contains threats in internal validity, its results provide significant contribution to the area of knowledge, related to recidivism prevention. The findings might be used to indicate the boot camp as an element of programs in specific offences, rather than a separate type of programs. Accordingly, shock incarceration might be seen as option of balancing between rehabilitation and incarceration, with the reduction of recidivism as an ultimate goal.