The studies included 7,304 juveniles across 29 experiments reported over a 35-year period. Juvenile system processing, at least given the experimental evidence presented in this report, does not appear to have a crime control effect. In fact, almost all of the results are negative in direction, as measured by prevalence, incidence, severity, and self-report outcomes. The results are not uniform across every study; one important moderating variable is the type of control group. Studies that compared system processing to a diversion program reported much larger negative effect sizes than those that compared it to “doing nothing. Based on the evidence presented in this report, juvenile system processing appears to not have a crime control effect, and across all measures appears to increase delinquency. This was true across measures of prevalence, incidence, severity, and self-report. Given the additional financial costs associated with system processing (especially when compared to doing nothing) and the lack of evidence for any public safety benefit, jurisdictions should review their policies regarding the handling of juveniles.
Anthony Petrosino, Sarah Guckenburg, and Carolyn Turpin-Petrosino
Campbell Collaboration, 2010