School of Criminal Justice Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences – Department of Justice and Human Services

First Advisor

Andrew J. Bucker

Second Advisor

Candace V. Bullock

Third Advisor

Tina Jaeckle


The juvenile system is no longer perceived as a social welfare model, but has become more punitive approximating a crime control model. Juveniles are not responsible for the majority of crime in the United States and are not the most serious and violent demographic; however, they are incarcerated at a higher rate than adults. Incarceration is an element of deterrence currently used by the juvenile justice system without a clear conclusion of whether or not it works to reduce juvenile crime.

The goal of this research was to first conduct a systematic review of prior studies on the effectiveness of incarceration on recidivism rates for juvenile offenders. A meta-analysis design was used on selected studies that met the inclusion criteria to determine if a relationship exists. This study compared and reviewed the recidivism rates of juvenile offenders sentenced to incarceration with a comparison group as identified in each study. The method for statistical measurement to test the research questions focused on analyzing effect sizes with a mean effect size through a meta-analysis. Moderators were analyzed across groups on their effect on recidivism. The length of the sentences for juveniles were examined and the results showed an association between longer sentences and reduced recidivism. Additionally, the effect sizes comparing recidivism between incarceration with non-incarceration resulted in negative relationship. Incarcerating juveniles is not a deterrent for criminal behavior, rather incarceration increased recidivism. It is time for policy makers to adhere to the evidence that incarceration does not deter crime and accept that imprisoning juveniles does not fulfill the promises of reducing crime and increasing public safety.