The Relationship of Juvenile Homicide Offense Characteristics to Post-Release Success: A Follow-Up Study

Andrea Thompson, University of South Florida
Kathleen M. Heide, University of South Florida
Wilson R. Palacios, University of South Florida
James B. Halsted, University of South Florida

The escalation in juvenile homicide arrests beginning in the mid 1980s in the United States sparked national debate about how best to deal with juvenile murderers following their apprehension and conviction. Legislation was introduced in virtually all states to allow prosecutors and judges to take tougher measures with juveniles. In negotiating pleas and in sentencing young killers, prosecutors and judges typically focus on characteristics closely associated with the offense and its aftermath in their decision making process. Interestingly, deals are made and sentences are handed down in the absence of empirical data that these variables are related to post-release outcome. This study examines the relationship, if any, between variables closely associated with the homicidal event, including the offender's intent or motive in committing the crime, specific characteristics of the crime, the nature and extent of victim injury, and the offender's reaction afterwards to his behavior, among a sample of 43 juvenile homicide offenders who were released from adult prison. Data pertinent to the homicidal event were obtained from in depth interviews with sample subjects when they were serving time for one or more counts of murder, attempted murder, or in a few cases, of manslaughter.

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Updated 05/20/2006