Categories: Safety and Justice
Reports | The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention | 2015

Studying Deterrence Among High-Risk Adolescents

The Pathways to Desistance study followed more than 1,300 serious juvenile offenders for 7 years after their conviction. In this bulletin, the authors present some key findings on the link between perceptions of the threat of sanctions
and deterrence from crime among serious adolescent offenders. Selected findings are as follows:
  • There was no meaningful reduction in offending or arrests in
response to more severe punishment (e.g., correctional placement,
longer stays).
  • Policies targeting specific types of offending may be more effective
at deterring youth from engaging in these specific offenses as
opposed to general policies aimed at overall crime reduction.
  • In response to an arrest, youth slightly increased their risk
perceptions, which is a necessary condition for deterrence.
  • Creating ambiguity about detection probabilities in certain areas or
for certain types of crime may have a deterrent effect by enhancing
the perceived risk of getting caught.