Academic journal article Journal of Juvenile Justice

Neighborhood Risks and Resources Correlated with Successful Reentry of Youth Returning from Massachusetts Detention Centers

Academic journal article Journal of Juvenile Justice

Neighborhood Risks and Resources Correlated with Successful Reentry of Youth Returning from Massachusetts Detention Centers

Article excerpt


Youth delinquency is a major social problem in the United States. According to Aizer and Doyle (2015), incarceration rates for juveniles have increased even faster than those of adults over the last 20 years. In 2014, juvenile courts handled approximately 1 million delinquency cases involving juveniles charged with criminal law violations (Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, 2015). According to the Justice Policy Institute (2014), each year the United States incurs between $8 billion and $21 billion in long-term costs for the confinement of young people. It is estimated that the United States has a juvenile corrections rate five times higher than the next highest country (Aizer & Doyle, 2013). Further, taxpayers bear the financial burden of treating and incarcerating youth.

Abrams and Freisthler (2010) estimated that 200,000 youth transition back into their neighborhoods each year. Existing studies have focused on individual risk factors, problem behaviors, and negative peer associations of youth to determine the barriers that block a successful integration back to the community (Abrams & Freisthler, 2010; Anthony et al., 2010; Mendel 2011). However, this individual approach has failed to address risks posed by the context of the neighborhood to which they return. That is, little research has been conducted on the risk features of the neighborhood that the juvenile reenters and how these factors contribute to delinquent behavior and patterns of criminal activity. This paper's research addresses the gap by exploring a neighborhood's access to resources in mitigating neighborhood risks for reentry youth.

Literature Review

As offending youth return to their communities, they face many challenges that they must overcome to achieve successful reentry. When young people attempt to reintegrate into their communities, they are likely to return to the same situations that played a role in their delinquent behavior. For example, upon their return home, youth may be exposed to contact with delinquent and/or drug-using peers, dysfunctional parents or households, and opportunities for engaging in illegal behavior (Harder, Kalverboer, & Knorth, 2011). Furthermore, juveniles may encounter barriers that make it difficult for them to reintegrate back into the school system. For example, a youth's reenrollment documentation may be incomplete. Some school district policies require that a youth produce documents that establish residency immunization status. If the detention center does not forward these documents and the youth is unable to provide them, the student may be denied enrollment (Feierman, Levick, & Mody, 2009). Moreover, a youth could experience discrimination within his or her community (Feierman et al., 2009); some members of the community are likely to judge the youth based on his or her previous delinquent behavior. Thus, the youth opts to keep a distance from the community rather than trying to fully reintegrate (Harder et al., 2011).

Given the high costs to society, communities, and the individuals themselves, it is essential to understand what happens to juveniles when they have been released from custody or when they return home after having spent time in a facility. Specifically, how do these youth who have come in contact with the justice system compare in terms of outcome measures such as employment and education?

According to Hartwell, McMackin, Tansi, and Bartlett (2010), data collected in Massachusetts indicated that 29% of youth discharged from the Department of Youth Services (DYS) supervision between the ages of 18 and 21 reoffend within the first year. In addition, research shows that approximately 50% of youth who are released from DYS violate the conditions of their release into the community (Hartwell et al., 2010). Similarly, in New York State, approximately 42% of youth who are released were rearrested within 6 months of their first release, and over 50% were rearrested within 9 months of their release (Hartwell et al. …

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