Rehabilitation in Washington’s Juvenile Justice System: How Longer Sentences may be Well-Intentioned yet Ineffective
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This research aims to determine whether sentence length affects the rate of re-offending after release (called recidivism) for children who are incarcerated at juvenile rehabilitation facilities in Washington State. Some juvenile justice reform proponents argue that longer sentences are necessary so that rehabilitative services can work most effectively. Others contend that longer periods of incarceration are not conducive to positive post-release outcomes. I will explore the recidivism rates of juveniles who are housed in youth versus adult prisons in Washington State. Unfortunately there is no data for Washington that examines the relationship between sentence lengths and juvenile recidivism. Thus, I will outline the data on sentence lengths and recidivism in three other states – Arizona, Pennsylvania, and Florida – and compare those juvenile systems to Washington’s. Although their juvenile systems are not identical to Washington’s in terms of offender differences, composition demographics, and stipulations of detainment, similar conclusions are being found in other jurisdictions: long-term juvenile incarceration does not decrease, and sometimes even increases, recidivism. We hope to discover if this research is conclusive when specific to Washington. Children’s lives are at stake.