Harsh sentences for juvenile crimes don’t make it less likely that a person will be convicted of a violent crime when they grow into adults, according to a new study in which academic economists looked at data from Louisiana.
In fact, judges getting tough with kids actually increases the chances that they’d be found guilty of drug offenses by age 25, the study found.
Economic researchers at University of California Riverside and the University of Louisiana also found that tough juvenile sentences do make it less likely that young people will be convicted of property crimes by the time they hit 25 years old. However, the younger the child was when sent to juvenile lockup, the less likely they were to graduate from high school. For older youth, graduation rates were unchanged by the experience, the study found.
The paper, titled “Juvenile punishment, high school graduation, and adult crime: evidence from idiosyncratic judge harshness,” appeared recently in the Review of Economics and Statistics.
The mixed results, the researchers concluded, make it “difficult to make a firm policy recommendation. That said, reducing time spent in prison in conjunction with making better rehabilitation programs available (and perhaps mandatory) as part of nonincarceration punishment may produce welfare-improving outcomes for marginal convicted juveniles.”