Does Parole Influence the Recidivism Rate of Juvenile Offenders?

Robert Barnoski, Washington State Inst. for Public Policy
Steve Aos, Washington State Inst. for Public Policy

Although parole is commonly ordered for juvenile offenders leaving state correctional institutions or training schools, little research has been done on the effect of parole on recidivism rates. This study describes the findings from a one-year policy change in the State of Washington where the majority of juvenile offenders leaving state institutions were not subject to parole conditions. In 1997, the Washington Legislature eliminated parole for all but sex offenders and the highest risk offenders leaving state juvenile correctional institutions; in 1999, parole was subsequently reinstated. Using a strong research design, the study compares the recidivism rates of those juveniles released without parole during FY 1999 to a similar group of offenders released to parole during FY 1998. The evaluation found no statistically significant difference in the recidivism rates between the two groups. After a 12-month follow-up, 32.7 of the parole group and 30.2 percent of the non-parole group had been reconvicted for a new felony crime. In addition to the lack of significance for overall recidivism rates, no differences were found for any sub-category of recidivism measures including violent, property, drug, or misdemeanor offenses. A multivariate analysis was conducted and confirmed the lack of statistical significance of juvenile parole in affecting the recidivism rates of lower-risk juveniles leaving state institutions.

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Updated 05/20/2006