A report released by the Juvenile Court Judges’ Commission shows that 80 percent of juveniles in Pennsylvania that recidivate, or continually commit crimes, come from families with unmarried parents.
The commission looked at juvenile cases closed in 2007 and tracked them for two years to see if the juveniles returned to crime.
The study found that 20 percent of juvenile offenders committed other crimes within two years after their original cases were closed.
Program analyst Justine Fowler said the biggest surprise was the impact that married parents have on the juvenile.
“This really tells us that in Pennsylvania that it is really important for families to be involved not only in the lives of the children or of the juveniles but just involved in every step of the process when they are involved in the juvenile court,” Fowler said.
Fowler said Pennsylvania has a statewide committee that focuses on how to get families involved in the juvenile court system.
The report used data from county juvenile probation departments to see how successful the Juvenile Justice System Enhancement Strategy (JJSES) has been since its implementation in 2010.
JJSES uses data collected to better the juvenile justice system at every stage with what Fowler calls “evidence-based practices.”
“We’re able to identify kids who are at the highest risk to recidivate or moderate risk to recidivate or at very low risk to recidivate so we’re hoping to see that through the implementation of all of these evidence-based practices that our recidivism rates will go down because we are now going to know who we need to be targeting our resources to,” Fowler said.
Statistics were collected from 66 of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties, but Fowler said the commission does not want the data used to compare the rates between counties.
“We’re not looking at numbers for a specific county and saying well your numbers are higher than this other county," Fowler said. "That’s not really what we’re trying to do at all. We’re trying to say, ‘This is where you started, this is what your county’s rate was when we started and by implementing all of these evidence-based practices, we have been able to reduce recidivism.’”
Other findings show that the younger a juvenile was when they entered the juvenile court, the more likely they will recidivate and males are almost three times more likely to recidivate than females.