A first-of-its-kind study co-authored by Social Welfare Professor Laura Abrams has gained attention by the National Association of Social Workers for its findings on juvenile offenders and rates of recidivism.
The study was published in the March 2014 issue of Social Work Research, and was highlighted on the NASW blog. According to the paper, the findings from the study are contradictory to the majority of the existing literature.
The paper looks at three different types of confinement sentences given to first-time violent offenders — probation in the home, group-home placement and probation-camp placement — and examines whether the type of placement affects the chances of recidivism for those offenders.
Abrams and her co-authors, lead researcher Joseph P. Ryan of the University of Michigan and Hui Huang of Florida International University, used records from the Los Angeles County Department of Probation and the Department of Children and Family Services from 2003-2009 as data. They used a statistical technique called propensity score matching to control for static risks such as gender, race, and age.
The study found that compared with in-home probation, the likelihood of recidivism was 2.12 times greater for youths assigned to probation camps and 1.28 times greater for youths assigned to group homes.
The authors conclude: “This is an important finding because it helps the field identify effective and efficient strategies for interrupting criminal careers that do not disrupt important social bonds to family, peers, and school. Empirical evidence, rather than popular rhetoric, should serve as the driving force for public policy and clinical innovations in working with violent young people.”
The study was also highlighted in “Journalist’s Resource” run by the Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy.