The Collateral Cost of Juvenile Adjudications in Adult Sentencing Guideline Recommendations: The Contribution of Policy to Cumulative Disadvantage

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Abstract

Objectives: To assess whether, and to what extent, juvenile adjudications contribute to cumulative disadvantage at adult sentencing. Additionally, we parse out the relative contribution of structural disadvantage. Methods: Using data on individuals sentenced in Pennsylvania Courts of Common Pleas from 2015 to 2019, we estimate real and counterfactual incarceration sentences (probability and length). We term the difference between these estimates the “collateral cost” of juvenile adjudication. We also estimate counterfactuals under alternative policy structures. Results: Adjudications impose a substantial collateral cost on adult sentences, raising the probability of incarceration by 0.14 (23 percent of total risk) and the length of incarceration by 3 months. The cost of juvenile records is greater for individuals convicted of moderately to very serious crimes and for Black and male defendants. Structural factors are most impactful for the most common offense levels. Alternative policy structures can lessen absolute costs but are not capable of eliminating disparate costs across demographic groups. Conclusions: The use of juvenile adjudications to inform adult sentencing recommendations contributes to cumulative disadvantage, both in that Black and male defendants are more likely to be affected and that they face greater costs when they do. Guidelines changes can reduce this cost for many defendants.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)445-483
Number of pages39
JournalJournal of Research in Crime and Delinquency
Volume61
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - May 2024

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology

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