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The Impact of Youth Incarceration on Violent Crime and Behavior: an examination of youth arrests, incarceration and recidivism by race among male youth in Los Angeles, California

  • Author(s): Dupuy, Danielle Marie
  • Advisor(s): Thomas, Courtney S
  • Pebley, Anne R
  • et al.

The number of youth incarcerated in Los Angeles (L.A.) has declined over the past several years, however the significance of this decline is uncertain. As the number of incarcerated youth in Los Angeles decreases, there has been a simultaneous increase in the proportion of youth arrested that are charged with violent crimes. At the same time, recidivism is high among California youth. Given this information, the downward trend in youth incarceration may be driven by changes in the policing of non-violent crimes rather than changes in the policing of all youth. Additionally, incarcerating youth may further promote violent crime instead of deterring it. In order to confirm or refute these implications, it is necessary to fully understand the relationship between youth incarceration and re-arrest for violent crime.

To date, there have been numerous studies that examine the effects of youth incarceration on recidivism, mental health and long-term socio-economic outcomes, but relatively few studies that assess the impact of youth incarceration on violent behavior and re-arrest for violent crime specifically. This study aims to expand our understanding of the impact of youth incarceration on behavior and re-arrest for violent crime with a focus on race and racism. I use a mixed-methods approach to answer questions about youth arrests, the experience of incarceration and recidivism among male youth in L.A. I analyze arrest data from the L.A. Police Department to assess the risk of re-arrest for violent crime and conduct interviews with L.A. County Probation officers, who oversee the care of male youth in detention, in order to understand the aspects of incarceration that impact youth behavior. Results from this research have the potential to inform future studies on the relationship between youth incarceration and recidivism, as well as contribute to a broader understanding about violence prevention strategies for high-need youth.

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