Promoting Desistance for Juvenile Offenders

One goal of the juvenile justice system is to reduce risk -- i.e., to promote young people's desistance from crime and positive trajectories of development. Increasingly, companies are marketing risk assessment instruments that ostensibly can be used to inform risk reduction efforts. 

Based on a large cohort of serious juvenile offenders, we are testing whether and how such instruments fulfill their promise. Are staff able to reliably score such instruments? Do the instruments measure the treatment-relevant risk factors (like criminal attitudes) that they say they do? Do they capture factors that buffer youth against recidivism? We find that markers of pro-social identity development (e.g., commitment toward law abiding behavior; eagerness to dissociate from criminal lifestyle) protect against future violence.