Just One or Two Months in a Juvenile Detention Center Can Have Devastating and Long-Term Effects

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Generally speaking, anyone who goes in, doesn't come out. So to speak. We're talking about juvenile detention centers. That's a bit of an exaggeration, but new research from the Quarterly Journal of Economics, as reported by Journalist's Resource, shows that just a short period of time in detention - one or two months - can have far-reaching effects on a young person's future, including a higher likelihood that he or she will re-offend as an adult.

University researchers out of Brown and MIT analyzed 10 years of data on roughly 35,000 young people in Chicago who were facing the juvenile justice system. There were several findings, one of which was what type of judge you were assigned. In cases of judges who had higher rates of sending kids to detention centers, these kids had a lower rate of finishing high school and a higher rate of committing another offense as an adult.

As we wrote in the introduction to this post, once you go in, you have a tough time getting out. The grip of the justice system is a mighty hold. Journalist's Resource cites a cost-benefit analysis: "[W]e find that for juveniles on the margin of incarceration, such detention leads to both a decrease in high school completion and an increase in adult incarceration," which calls into question the supposed benefits of the system, which is to get kids on the straight and narrow.

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