Studying Deterrence Among High-Risk Adolescents

Studying Deterrence Among High-Risk Adolescents


Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP)


Thomas A. Loughran, Robert Brame, Jeffrey Fagan, Alex R. Piquero, Edward P. Mulvey, Carol A. Schubert

The impact of sanctions, whether threatened or applied, on deterrence of crime by high-risk adolescents is examined. Sections of this bulletin include: background; key terms; increasing deterrence through severity—institutional placement and length of stay; increasing deterrence through certainty—offenders' perceptions of risk; increasing certainty though arrest; behavioral responses to changes in risk perceptions—the certainty effect; the deterrent effect of ambiguity in offender risk perceptions; policy implications; and conclusion. Some of the results are: There was no meaningful reduction in offending or arrests in response to more severe punishment (e.g., correctional placement, longer stays); Policies targeting specific types of offending may be more effective at deterring youth from engaging in these specific offenses as opposed to general policies aimed at overall crime reduction; In response to an arrest, youth slightly increased their risk perceptions, which is a necessary condition for deterrence; Creating ambiguity about detection probabilities in certain areas or for certain types of crime may have a deterrent effect by enhancing the perceived risk of getting caught" (p. 1).

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