Juvenile Crime Interventions

Jeffrey A. Butts and John K. Roman (2009). Juvenile Crime Interventions. In Investing in the Disadvantaged: Assessing the Benefits and Costs of Social Policies. David Weimer and Aidan Vining (Editors). Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press.

This chapter reviews the cost-benefit literature on juvenile crime reduction programs, and proposes four program models that should be investigated for their potential cost-effectiveness: mentoring programs, teen courts, juvenile drug courts, and systemic reform strategies.

Less serious crimes are often the first offenses committed by juveniles who then go on to commit serious and violent crime. Not all minor offenders graduate to serious and violent crime, but the majority of youth that do eventually commit serious crimes first come to the attention of law enforcement authorities for less serious offenses (Piper 1985). By the time a young offender has accumulated a criminal record sufficient to justify the use of secure confinement the costs of the youth’s behavior may be immense. One study estimated that the economy loses up to $2 million for every youthful offender that goes on to become a “career criminal” as an adult, including actual damages, lost wages, and harm to victims (Cohen 1998).