CRIJ 3304 Scholarly Article

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CJPXXX10.1177/0887403414534854Criminal Justice Policy ReviewDawkins and Sorensen
The Impact of Residential
Placement on Aggregate
Delinquency: A State-Level
Panel Study, 1997-2011
Criminal Justice Policy Review
2015, Vol. 26(1) 85­–100
© 2014 SAGE Publications
Reprints and permissions:
DOI: 10.1177/0887403414534854
Marika Dawkins1 and Jon R. Sorensen2
This study sought to determine the impact of residential placement on juvenile
delinquency. Specifically, the study focused on the extent to which juvenile detention
and residential placement influenced juvenile violent, property, and drug offenses.
Biennial, state-level panel data for the years 1997 through 2011 were analyzed
using random effects modeling. Results indicated that increased levels of juvenile
detention and residential placement were associated with higher rates of violent
offending. Increased levels of residential placement were also related to higher rates
of property and drug offending. The findings from the current study fail to support
the deterrence and incapacitation hypotheses in relation to the institutionalization of
juvenile offenders.
deterrence, juvenile justice, juveniles, institutionalization, residential placement
Prior to the creation of a separate juvenile justice system, youthful offenders older than
7 years of age were treated similarly to adult offenders based on principles of common
law that focused largely on the offense rather than the offender. However, the late 19th
and early 20th centuries experienced a growing recognition of the developmental differences between children and adults. Substantial efforts were made to reform the
of Texas-Pan American, Edinburg, USA
Carolina University, Greenville, NC, USA
Corresponding Author:
Marika Dawkins, Assistant Professor, Department of Criminal Justice, University of Texas-Pan American,
1201 W. University Drive, Edinburg, TX 78539, USA.
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Criminal Justice Policy Review 26(1)
justice system. A socially conscious tide of reform, including the Child Savers
Movement, led to an outcry for the removal of children from adult institutions. The
development of juvenile institutions, such as the New York House of Refuge, and
juvenile courts were expressions of the need for separate systems, and a realization
that the problems of dealing with young offenders should be resolved in a system
designed specifically to address their delinquent offenses and rehabilitative needs.
The juvenile justice system, lauded as a successful implementation of progressive
ideals, was built on the core principle that juveniles, being malleable and in need of
rehabilitative services, should be distinguished in law from adults (Platt, 1977). The
nature and frequency of juvenile offending has since altered the trajectory of the juvenile justice system. Krisberg and Austin (1993) note that in the 1960s, there was a
growing awareness of the limitations of the juvenile justice system in dealing with
juvenile offending. A tremendous increase in violent juvenile offense loomed on the
horizon. Between 1985 and 1991, the number of 15-year-olds arrested for murder
increased by 217%.
The rise in violence among the nation’s youthful population and the notion that
juveniles were committing more heinous offenses increased public focus on juveniles
(Chung, Little, Steinberg, & Altschuler, 2005). The alarming increases in violence
fueled the image of youthful criminals as “super-predators,” and the juvenile delinquency problem generally as a “time ticking bomb” (Levitt, 1998). President Clinton
joined the growing chorus suggesting that juvenile delinquency was the most serious
crime problem facing the nation. The marked increase in juvenile offending led to a
reevaluation and attack on the treatment model (Austin, Johnson, & Gregoriou, 2000).
This period experienced a dramatic shift from the original focus on rehabilitation to a
“get-tough” approach. Claiming that adult crime merited adult punishment, advocates
demanded that juveniles be prosecuted and punished similarly to adults for certain
Historical developments leading up to the establishment of the juvenile court as
well as forces influencing the “get tough” movement of the current era evidence society’s struggle to strike an appropriate balance between rehabilitation and punishment.
Shoemaker (1988) pointed out that this “duality” has had a perennial impact on the
juvenile justice system and its structures and processes. Bernard (1992) argued that the
treatment of juvenile offenders demonstrates a cyclical pattern. The cycle typically
begins with agreement among the public and justice officials that the level of juvenile
offending is too high. There are many harsh punishments with few alternative treatments available for juveniles, thus limiting officials to exercising severe punishments
or doing nothing at all. This forced choice raises concerns about laxity in the justice
system, which in turn leads to moderate reforms to provide middle-ground alternatives. After a period of time, juvenile offending is again viewed as being too high. The
public outcry during this part of the cycle leads to the expansion and utilization of
more punitive policies. According to Bernard, this cycle has been repeated many times
during the past 200 years.
Consistent with Bernard’s analysis, the most common policy response during the
most recent juvenile delinquency wave has been to increase the use of incarceration.
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Dawkins and Sorensen
In doing so, residential placement has become the primary mechanism for addressing
serious juvenile delinquency. A biennial survey on Juvenile Residential Facility
Census conducted by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention
(OJJDP) indicated that there are currently more than 900 facilities serving as residential treatment centers/facilities for juvenile delinquents. There are between 80,000 and
90,000 juveniles housed in these residential facilities throughout the nation on any
given day (Justice Policy Institute, 2009; Sickmund, 2010). According to OJJDP, the
rate of residential placement in 2007 was 738 per 100,000 for Black juveniles, 305 for
Hispanics, and 157 for Whites.
Currently, the juvenile justice system’s primary stated goal is to rehabilitate offenders while the criminal justice system’s focus is to sanction criminal offenders. In practice, however, offenders in both the juvenile and adult systems are sanctioned after the
commission of an offense. The protection of society is thus an overriding concern in
both systems. In addition, residential placement for juvenile offenders is comparable
to adult incarceration (prison/jail), suggesting that the impact of incarceration on crime
should be comparable (Justice Policy Institute, 2009).
Whether applied to adults or juveniles, incarceration is a mechanism used to influence behavior through deterrence, incapacitation, or rehabilitation (Sweeten & Apel,
2007). Levitt (2004) argued that incarceration acts to reduce crime rates in the short
run mainly through incapacitation and deterrence. First, locking up offenders results in
their inability to commit further crimes in the community while incapacitated. Second,
incarceration serves as a deterrent to forward-looking criminals who feel threatened by
punishments and thus refrain from committing crimes that may otherwise seem attractive. Empirical estimates of the effect of imprisonment on crime capture both of these
The impact of incarceration on crime rates has long been an issue studied by criminologists and researchers in related disciplines (Piquero & Blumstein, 2007). Indeed,
the literature is replete with empirical studies examining the association between
incarceration and adult crime rates. In general, there appears to be an inverse relationship between the two (Besci, 1999; Cappell & Sykes, 1991; Devine, Shelley, &
Smith, 1988; Johnson & Raphael, 2010; Levitt, 1996, 2001; Marvell & Moody, 1994,
1997, 1998; Raphael & Winter-Ebmer, 2001; Spelman, 2000a, 2000b, 2005;
Washington State Institute for Public Policy, 2003). Researchers have found a percentage increase in incarceration rate to be associated with a decrease in crime rates
of approximately 9% to 22% (Besci, 1999; Devine et al., 1988; Marvell & Moody,
1998; Spelman, 2000b).
Some inconsistency in results has been noted depending on the time frame studied,
the unit of analysis (national, state, county), and other methodological choices, such as
those related to type of design or choice of statistical model. For example, the impact
of incarceration has been shown to depend on the type of crime employed as an outcome measure (DeFina & Arvanites, 2002; Donohue & Levitt, 2001; Raphael &
Winter-Ebmer, 2001). Likewise, Shepherd (2006) argued that the makeup of the
prison population, in terms of inmates’ crimes of record, influenced its crime reducing
potential. The incarceration of serious property and violent offenders appeared to
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Criminal Justice Policy Review 26(1)
reduce crime, while the incarceration of low-level and drug offenders appeared to
increase crime.
Presently, studies examining the influence of incarceration on aggregate crime
rates are rare in the juvenile justice literature, where researchers focus primarily on the
influence of neighborhood factors (see, for example, Kubrin & Stewart, 2006;
Sampson, Morenoff, & Earls, 1999; Teasdale & Silver, 2009; Wickrama & Noh,
2010). One exception is a study by Levitt (1998) who relied on state-level panel data
with approximately 2-year intervals for the period 1978 to 1983 to estimate juvenile
offending based on the relative punitiveness of punishment. The findings suggested
that placing a juvenile offender in custody is an effective means of fighting crime.
Levitt concluded that juvenile delinquents respond to sanctions in a manner similar to
adult criminals.
Similarly, Stahlkopf, Males, and Macallair (2010) conducted a study on crime
trends dating from the 1960s to 2010, with greater emphasis on the first half of the
series. They focused on California’s juvenile incarceration rates and comparable
adult crime rates. The researchers noted that California’s correctional policy for that
period had placed great emphasis on mass incarceration to control crime. Their findings were somewhat contradictory, showing that incarceration seemed to be effective in the short term while the long-term benefits appeared questionable.
The purpose of the current study is to examine the impact of residential placement
on aggregate juvenile delinquency using panel data from all 50 states for the years
1997 to 2011. The study employs a “top-down” approach that uses aggregate data to
estimate the total effect of residential placement on delinquency while controlling for
other factors linked to crime, irrespective of the causal mechanism—deterrence or
incapacitation (Devine et al., 1988; Spelman, 2000b). By examining the impact of
juvenile residential placement on aggregate delinquency, and its effectiveness (or lack
thereof) either through deterrence or incapacitation, this study offers an opportunity to
close the gap between the adult literature on incarceration and the juvenile justice literature on residential placement.
Data and Sample
The analysis relied on panel data for all states covering the years 1997 to 2011. State
is a desirable unit of analysis to capture the overall effects of residential placement on
juvenile delinquency because policy regarding crime and delinquency are generally
made at this level. Most studies examining the influence of adult imprisonment have
relied on state as the unit of analysis for just this reason (Spelman, 2000b). The use of
state as the unit of analysis allowed the researchers to assess the broader impact of
residential placement as a reactive means of control, given that the primary objective
of this study was to examine the impact of residential placement on aggregate juvenile
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Dawkins and Sorensen
Data for this study were collected from publicly available and accessible databases,
including the Census of Juveniles in Residential Placement (CJRP), the Federal
Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) Uniform Crime Reports (UCR), the Easy Access to
Juvenile Populations (EZAPOP), the National Center for Children in Poverty (NCCP),
the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), and the U.S. Census Bureau
(USCB). The CJRP has been providing biennial data on juveniles in residential placement, the incarcerated population, since 1997 when it replaced the Census of Public
and Private Juvenile Detention, Correctional, and Shelter Facilities, otherwise known
as the Children in Custody (CIC) census. The CJRP offers more detailed information
on each juvenile in residential placement at the state level in comparison to its predecessor. Although the CJRP includes information on juveniles remaining incarcerated
in the queried facilities beyond the age of 17, the researchers were able to extract the
population of 10 to 17 years of age for the current study. The CJRP includes information for both committed and detained juveniles in each state. According to the Office
of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention’s “Easy Access to the Census of
Juveniles in Residential Placement”, juveniles who are committed include those placed
in a residential facility after a court ordered disposition while those who are detained
are held in a residential facility while awaiting adjudication, court hearing, disposition,
or placement elsewhere. Both detained and committed represent the incarcerated population in this study.
Arrest and police data were gathered from the UCR. The NCCP provided data on
the percentage of children (ages 10-17) living below the poverty level. The NCES
provided data on high school graduation rates. The EZAPOP, which is monitored by
the National Center for Juvenile Justice, provided statistics on African American male
youth (ages 10-17). The study included panel data on 50 states and 7 years, for a total
combined sample of 350 observations spanning 1997 to 2011. Despite problems of
underreporting and reliability of official data in general, the data series relied on in this
study offered consistency in reporting from year to year.
Variables and Measures
The researchers used juvenile arrest rate, which is a frequently used indicator of criminal/delinquent involvement (Levitt & Lochner, 2001; Mears, 2010). Arrest rates were
used as a proxy for delinquent acts committed by juveniles because it is only possible
to attach an age to a criminal offender after the crime has been cleared by an arrest
(Levitt, 1998). The aggregate juvenile (ages 10-17) delinquency rate was calculated
based on the rate of juvenile arrests (total arrest for property, violent, and drug offenses)
per 100,000 juveniles at the state level, covering the years 1998 to 2011. The juvenile
arrest rate for each state was modeled using random effects estimation that included
several control variables and state-level indicator variables. The researchers used time
series cross-sectional (TSCS) data to test all three models of the dependent variables,
which were lagged 1 year.
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Criminal Justice Policy Review 26(1)
Residential placement includes both committed and detained juveniles as the primary predictor variables of interest. The residential facilities in this study included
both private and publicly operated facilities. The number of juveniles in these facilities
and the number of juveniles in detention was calculated at the rate per 100,000 the
juvenile population. As per CJRP guidelines, state-level counts were rounded to the
nearest multiple of three to protect the privacy of juveniles.
Based on previous literature, a number of predictor variables for aggregate delinquency were included in this study. Sworn police officers per capita, high school graduation rate, African American male youth (ages 10-17), the region a state was located
in (South vs. other), and children living below the poverty line all served as control
variables because they were expected to influence the juvenile delinquency rate
(Stahlkopf et al., 2010). Sworn police officers are given the responsibility of fighting
crime and their presence is expected to influence crime rates. Therefore, several
researchers, including Marvel and Moody (1996), Besci (1999), Spelman (2005), and
Stemen (2007) have examined the association between police and crime. NCES provided the data on high school graduation rates based on the average freshman graduation rate within 4 years. The NCCP, funded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation,
provided the percentage of juveniles (ages 10-17) living below the poverty level for
each state for the years 1997 to 2010 based on the U.S. Current Population Survey.
According to the NCCP, poverty is based on family income falling below the poverty
threshold, as defined by the federal poverty level for a family of four with two children. Researchers have also examined the percentage of African Americans in the
population because this population is generally linked to higher crime rates (also see
DeFina & Arvanites, 2002; Liedka, Piehl, & Useem, 2006). In a meta-analysis, Pratt
and Cullen (2005) found poverty, percentage Black, police per capita, southern region,
get-tough policies, and level of incarceration effect to be among the primary macrolevel predictors of crime. Given the importance of these variables in the literature, the
current study’s findings could potentially be biased if they were not included herein.
Panel data models were used to estimate the effect of residential placement on delinquency rates while controlling for other variables that have been shown to influence
crime rates. As noted previously, the data in the current study were based on roughly
every 2 years of data from 1997 to 2010. Although lagging is frequently used in criminal justice empirical research to address potential simultaneity bias, it does not appear
as though researchers have reached a consensus on the number of years crime data
should be lagged. Marvell and Moody (1994) used 1- and 2-year lags while DeFina
and Arvanites (2002) included two lags of the dependent variable. For the current
study, crime data were lagged by 1 year, 1998 through 2011, to control for simultaneity. It is expected that any potential impact of residential placement on delinquency
should be noticeable at least a year after changes in residential placement.
In modeling panel data, there are two main options: the fixed effects model and the
random effects model. Fixed effects modeling is used primarily to analyze the impact
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Dawkins and Sorensen
of variables over time. Fixed effects models focus on the relationship between the
independent and dependent variables within an entity. On the contrary, random effects
models are typically relied on when predictor variables are expected to remain fairly
constant within units over time, and there is an expectation that the differences among
predictors across states will have an impact on the dependent variables. Random
effects models allow for time-invariant variables such as gender to serve as an explanatory variable, whereas such variables are absorbed by the intercept in a fixed effects
model ( …
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