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 1836-2052Canberra: Australian Institute of Criminology, September 2009


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.