Estimating the Costs and Benefits of the Separate Juvenile Justice System

The goal of the Research Roundtable on Estimating the Costs and Benefits of the Separate Juvenile Justice System was to assist the MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Adolescent Development and Juvenile Justice in examining the feasibility of a cost-benefit analysis of the nation’s separate system of juvenile laws and juvenile courts.

Arguments about the value of the separate juvenile justice system traditionally focus on ethical, moral, and legal principles, developmental differences between juveniles and adults, and the relative effectiveness of crime prevention and punishment. The Research Roundtable considered methods of adding an economic perspective to the debate. In other words, do the benefits of maintaining a separate legal system for young offenders outweigh the costs? What are those costs and benefits and can they be measured?

The Roundtable, which included experts in adolescent development, juvenile justice, public policy, and economics, reviewed various approaches for analyzing this important policy question.

The Urban Institute drew upon the views of Roundtable participants to prepare a white paper that described the feasibility of an economic analysis and proposed a possible research agenda for investigating the costs and benefits of the separate juvenile system.

Members of the Research Roundtable:

  • Shawn Bushway, University of Maryland
  • Jeffrey Butts, University of Chicago*
  • Mark Cohen, Vanderbilt University
  • Jeffrey Fagan, Columbia University **
  • Gerald Gaes, National Institute of Justice
  • Laurie Garduque, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
  • Daniel Mears, Florida State University*
  • Anne Morrison Piehl, Harvard University
  • Edward Mulvey, University of Pittsburgh **
  • Daniel Nagin, Carnegie-Mellon University **
  • John Roman, Urban Institute
  • Peter Reuter, University of Maryland
  • Robert Schwartz, Juvenile Law Center **
  • Howard Snyder, National Center for Juvenile Justice
  • Laurence Steinberg, Temple University ***
  • Jeremy Travis, John Jay College of Criminal Justice*
  • Christy Visher, Urban Institute

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*Formerly of the Urban Institute
**Member of the MacArthur Foundation Network
*** Director of the MacArthur Foundation Network

The Research Roundtable was commissioned by and sponsored by the MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Adolescent Development and Juvenile Justice, directed by Dr. Laurence Steinberg of Temple University.

Results from the project were available in 2005.

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Project Staff

Jeffrey Butts, Co-PI
John Roman, Co-PI

Funding
$30,000. MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Adolescent Development and Juvenile Justice.

Publication
Roman, John and Jeffrey A. Butts (2005). The economics of juvenile jurisdiction. Washington, DC: The Urban Institute.