Drawing the Line: Empirical Recidivism Results From a Natural Experiment Raising the Age of Criminal Responsibility – 2018

Every state maintains some mechanism by which youths can be tried as adults in criminal courts. While scholars have long debated the inherent benefits or detriments of prosecuting youths as adults, empirical studies of actual outcomes have provided mixed findings and have been limited by problems of selection bias and jurisdictional differences in processing. The current research aims to further inform this literature by capitalizing on a policy change in Connecticut that raised the age of criminal responsibility from 16 to 17 on January 1, 2010, creating a natural experiment to assess the recidivism differences for youths based upon the system of processing: juvenile versus adult court. Findings from a 2-year follow-up reveal that 16-year-olds processed in juvenile courts had substantially reduced rates of recidivism with odds of rearrest that were between .462 and .630 less than for 16-year-olds processed in adult courts dependent on model specification.

Eric Fowler, Megan C. Kurlychek
Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice, Vol 16, Issue 3, 2018