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Crossroads: Formal versus Informal Processing in the Juvenile Justice System

Award Information

Award #
Congressional District
Funding First Awarded
Total funding (to date)

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2010, $500,000)

OJJDP's Field Initiated Research and Evaluation (FIRE) Program funds research and evaluation that address how the juvenile justice system responds to juvenile delinquency. Funded research projects seek answers to questions that will inform policy and suggest ways to enhance the juvenile justice system. As set forth in the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act of 1974, as amended (Pub. L. No. 93-415, 42 U.S.C. § 5601 et seq.), OJJDP may conduct research or evaluation in juvenile justice matters, for the purpose of providing research and evaluation relating to control of juvenile delinquency and serious crime committed by juveniles; successful efforts to prevent first-time minor offenders from committing subsequent involvement in serious crime; successful efforts to prevent recidivism; and the juvenile justice system. This program is authorized pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 3796ee et seq.

The Regents of the University of California will conduct a study entitled "Crossroads: Formal versus Informal Processing in the Juvenile Justice System." Many youth who violate the law are processed informally (i.e., diverted from the juvenile justice system). Others arrested for identical crimes and with similar histories are formally processed (i.e., put on supervised probation or sent to institutional placement). In many jurisdictions, processing decisions are made in the absence of empirically developed guidelines. This research project seeks to identify the short and long-term ramifications of formal versus informal processing in order to inform the juvenile justice system's response to juvenile delinquency. In addition to evaluating the effects of these processing decisions on re-offending, the researchers will expand the traditional universe of evaluation outcomes for juvenile justice policy by examining the social, developmental, and economic consequences of processing decisions. The researchers will recruit an ethnically diverse sample of 1,200 male juvenile offenders (ages 12-16) from California, Louisiana, and Pennsylvania. To enable a valid evaluation of the impact of formal versus informal processing, the researchers will use selection criteria and advanced statistical methods that maximize the comparability of formally and informally processed youth. Target youth will be interviewed semi-annually for 36 months. The outcomes of interest include educational attainment, mental health, employment preparation, social relationships, psychosocial maturity, and recidivism as well as their associated economic costs and benefits.


Date Created: August 30, 2010