Youth Justice: Criminal Trajectories

By Lynch, Mark; Buckman, Julianne et al. | Trends & Issues in Crime and Criminal Justice, September 2003 | Go to article overview

Youth Justice: Criminal Trajectories


Lynch, Mark, Buckman, Julianne, Krenske, Leigh, Trends & Issues in Crime and Criminal Justice


This paper presents the key findings of the 'Youth Justice: Criminal Trajectories Research Project', a project that focused on recidivism among young offenders. It makes a significant contribution to the evidence base as it provides the offending trajectories of 1,503 young offenders over a seven year period.

The data show that the vast majority of young offenders on supervised orders progress to the adult correction systems with half of them having served at least one term of imprisonment. Analysis of risk factors finds that 91 per cent of those who have been subject to a care and protection order progressed to the adult system.

The results of the project confirm that multiple factors amplify the risk of recidivism and highlight the importance of coordinated whole-of-government responses to youth offending.

Toni Makkai

Acting Director

Background statistics

The following information should be kept in mind when considering the results reported in this paper:

* Approximately 1 per cent of all young people in Queensland aged 10 to 16 years are charged with offences and appear in court each year.

* In 1994r-95, less than half of the finalised court appearances (41 per cent), resulted in the young person being sentenced to a supervised juvenile justice order. This means that less than half of 1 per cent of young people aged 10 to 16 years in 1994-95 were sentenced to supervised juvenile justice orders in that year.

* The young people who were sentenced to supervised orders in 1994-95 were generally the serious and/ or repeat offenders. Those who committed few or minor offences would have been diverted from entering too deeply into the system through cautioning and/ or unsupervised orders such as reprimands and good behaviour orders.

* Young people sentenced to supervised juvenile justice orders are characterised by high levels of instability in their lives. They also, generally have low literacy levels and poor prospects of employment.

* From 1998-99 to 2001-02, the number of finalised court appearances decreased from 7504 to 7352 - a 3 per cent decrease. This included a decrease in finalised higher court appearances from 878 to 589 a 33 per cent decrease.

* The decease in higher court appearances indicates that the most substantial reduction has been in terms of young people being sentenced for the most serious types of offences.

* As a result of the decrease in finalised court appearances, the number of young people on supervised juvenile justice orders has decreased overall from 2112 as at 30 June 1998 to 1679 as at 30 June 2002 - a decrease of about 20 per cent.

* The number of young people in detention centres has decreased from an average daily occupancy of 139 in 1998-99 to 97 in 2001-02 - a decrease of about 30 per cent.

Key Findings

* By September 2002, 79 per cent of those juveniles on supervised orders in 1994-95 had progressed to the adult corrections system and 49 per cent had been subject to at least one term of imprisonment.

* By September 2002, 89 per cent of the male Indigenous juveniles on supervised orders in 1994-95 had progressed to the adult corrections system, with 71 per cent having served at least one prison term.

* By September 2002, 9 1 per cent of the juveniles who had been subject to a care and protection order, as well as a supervised justice order, had progressed to the adult corrections system with 67 per cent having served at least one term of imprisonment.

* Over time, the probability of those juveniles on supervised orders in 1994-95 who are subject to multiple risks factors (e.g. male, Indigenous, care and protection order) progress-ing to the adult corrections system will closely approach 100 per cent.

Setting the scene

Longitudinal studies examining criminal recidivism (and associated risk factors) are widely recognised as useful for informing criminal justice policy initiatives.

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