Although people may have the idea that providing intensive levels of supervision to juveniles will help stave off recidivism rates, that is not always the case. Studies on Florida juveniles who are assessed at a low risk to re-offend actually demonstrate the opposite for that population of juvenile offenders, even if they are also determined as having high needs.

According to the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice, low risk juvenile offenders are sentenced to intensive programs such as residential facilities or therapeutic treatment settings. Youth who are placed in those types of more intensive settings demonstrate a recidivism rate of 1.5 percent more than their similarly situated peers who are sentenced to less restrictive diversion or probationary terms.

Since the philosophical underpinnings of the juvenile justice system are typically supposed to be based on rehabilitation of young offenders as opposed to punishment of them, these findings may demonstrate a clear need for low-risk juveniles to be sentenced to the least restrictive supervision allowable for the adjudicated offense or offenses.

This study demonstrates that harsher punishments do not always work for every category of juvenile offender, and each unique situation offers its own slew of complications. When a child has been charged with juvenile crimes, their families may wish to consult with a criminal defense attorney who practices in juvenile law. A juvenile law attorney may be able to assist their clients through negotiating and advocating for more appropriate sentences in court in the event that charges result in an adjudication.

Source: Florida Department of Juvenile Justice, ““High Needs” Youth Myths vs. Facts“, October 06, 2014

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