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The specific deterrent effect of custodial penalties on juvenile reoffending

Technical and background paper series no. 33

Don Weatherburn, Sumitra Vignaendra, Andrew McGrath
ISBN 978 1 921532 40 5 ISSN 1836-2052
Canberra: Australian Institute of Criminology, September 2009

Abstract

On an average day in 2006-07, 941 young people were held in detention across Australia (AIHW 2008: 51). The costs associated with juvenile detention are very high. For example, although only 10.3 percent of the 6,488 juveniles who appeared in the NSW Children's Court in 2007 were given a control order, 48 percent of the budget of the NSW Department of Juvenile Justice is spent keeping juvenile offenders in custody (NSW Department of Juvenile Justice, personal communication 2009).

Given the high cost of juvenile detention, one would expect to find a large body of Australian research examining its potential benefits. To date, however, little research has been conducted on the effect of custodial sentences on juvenile recidivism. It is known that more than two-thirds of the young people who receive a control order from the NSW Children's Court are convicted of a further offence within two years of their custodial order. It is not known what their reconviction rate would have been had they not received a custodial penalty. This study addresses this issue.

This paper is taken from the report of research commissioned by the Criminology Research Council.