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STUDYING PATTERNS AND CORRELATES OF RECIDIVISM
ROHALD ARDWAN MENESES
A THESIS PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
MASTER OF ARTS
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
Rohald Ardwan Meneses
I would like to thank my committee members, Dr. Alex Piquero and Dr. Marian
Borg, for all their time and effort in helping me to accomplish this project. Special thanks
go to the chair of my committee, Dr. Alex Piquero, for all his guidance and help
throughout my thesis. Also, I thank my parents Maria and Johnny, and my brothers
Johann and Eelhard. I would also like to thank the following for all their love and
support: Dr. Lonn Lanza-Kaduce, Vicente Cuka, Jessica Malmad, Ivo Cuka, Miguel
Molina, Fernando Molina, Romeo Meneses, Salvatore Stelluto, Christina Anton, Wendy
Colon, Christian Monje, Carola Sabja, Roxana Otasevic, Maria Jose Guzman and
TABLE OF CONTENTS
A C K N O W L E D G M E N T S ................................................................................................. iii
LIST OF TABLES ....................................................... ............ ....... ....... vi
ABSTRACT ........ .............. ............. .. ...... .......... .......... vii
1 IN TRODU CTION ................................................. ...... .................
2 REVIEW OF LITERATURE ......................................................... .............. 5
Juvenile D elinquency ......... ............................................................ ... ............. .5
R ecidivism ......................................................................... . 6
T theoretical A analysis ........................................... .... ... ....... .. ..... .... ......... ... 8
Analysis of the Factors that are Related to Recidivism among Juvenile Offenders... 12
C cognitive A ability .......................................................................13
A g e ........................................................................................1 4
Seriousness of Offense ............... ......................................... .. .. .............. 15
A alcohol and D rug A buse .......................................................................... 16
F am ily B background ............................................ .. .... .... ......... .. .. .... 17
R a c e ................................................................................. 1 8
C u rren t F o cu s ...................................... .............................................. 18
3 D A T A ............................................................................ .. 2 1
V ariables ......................................................... ................ ......... 23
Independent V ariables ............................................................ ............... 23
D dependent V ariables .................................................... ........ ....... ............24
R research Q u estion s............ .......................................................... .... .. .......24
A nalytic P lan ................................................................... 24
4 F IN D IN G S ................................................................................ 2 6
R results for O ne-W ay A N O V A ............................................................................. .... 26
R results of the Survival A nalysis........................................... .......................... 27
5 DISCU SSION AND CON CLU SION S ............................................. ....................32
L IST O F R E F E R E N C E S ...................................... .................................... ....................35
B IO G R A PH IC A L SK E T C H ...................................................................... ..................41
LIST OF TABLES
1 Descriptive Statistics: One-Way ANOVA analysis..........................................27
2 Cox Proportional Hazard Models Predicting Hispanic Juveniles Parole
Success/Failure .................................... ............................... .........29
3 Cox Proportional Hazard Models Predicting African American Juveniles Parole
Success/Failure .................................... ............................... .........30
4 Cox Proportional Hazard Models Predicting White Americans Juveniles Parole
Success/Failure .................................... ............................... .........31
5 Cox Regression Hazard M odel: Split-Race Analysis ............................................31
Abstract of Thesis Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts
STUDYING PATTERNS AND CORRELATES OF RECIDIVISM
Rohald Ardwan Meneses
Chair: Alex Piquero
Cochair: Marian J. Borg
Major Department: Sociology
The purpose of this study was to evaluate a model of life course criminal offending
(recidivism) that included cognitive ability, history of alcohol and drug misuse, marital
status of parents and parolees and age of parolee at reception. Analyses were conducted
on a sample of 4,065 juvenile parolee offenders who were committed to the California
Youth Authority in 1964 and 1965, with a 20-year follow-up of arrest data. Results
suggest that 1) failure rates were similar across race, 2) time to failure varied across race
with White Americans failing sooner, and 3) the risk factors were similarly unrelated to
recidivism across race.
The prevalence of crime in the United States is an issue that concerns the American
population and those who try to explain it. In addition to the costs to the victims and their
families, crime disrupts the ties among and within neighborhoods and its members and
might have longer lasting effects on society. Criminal activity can start anywhere, any
place, and any time. Some of the people in the community are not aware of how violent
their community could really be. Furthermore, the extraordinary high rates of violent
crimes in the United States are disrupting the communities.
Crime has become an important issue in the United States. Although crime
decreased in the 1990's, recent increases in crime have made legislators and lawmakers
design new and tough laws (Blumstein and Wallman, 2000). Adult crime has always
been an issue in almost every state in the United States. Many studies have identified the
possible explanations and subsequent policy recommendations regarding adult crime.
However, the new generation of citizens, i.e. juveniles, have started committing more and
more crimes in the past ten years (William, Dilulio, and Walters, 1996).
The crime rate increase does not stop just with the prosecution and incarceration of
adult criminals; it also has to do with the nature of the crime and who commits the crime.
Juveniles have always been responsible for a disproportionate share of violent crime, but
the problem has worsened since the mid-1980's (Office of Juvenile Justice and
Delinquency Prevention, 1992). Around the world, crimes committed by juveniles are a
major concern. In the United States, some individuals warn of a crime wave of epidemic
proportions, as changing demographics will increase the number of offense-prone
juveniles (Snyder and Sickmund, 1999). What makes the difference between juveniles
and adults is that juveniles are assumed to be less responsible for their deviant behavior.
Juveniles are less culpable and more responsive to positive behavioral change than adult
offenders (Yablonsky, 2000).
One of the most important issues facing the criminal justice system is the prediction
of juvenile delinquency (Wierson and Forehand, 1995). Every year, almost 3 million
teenagers in the United States fall victim to crimes, almost 2 million of these cases
involve violence, and some end in far more tragic results where juveniles die in situations
where firearms are involved (Baron, 2001).
Evidence indicates that juveniles are at comparatively high risk of becoming
offenders. Studies have indicated that a gradual increase in the juvenile crime rate
beginning in 1960 and continuing through the 1990's (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1994),
leading to more than 100,000 youth incarcerated yearly in the United States (Office of
Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, 1999), and that high crime communities
tend to be low in economic status, with economic status being measured in terms of such
variables as income and poverty (Lerner and Galambos, 1998), unemployment, welfare,
occupation, education, inequality, owner-occupied dwellings, and substandard housing
among others. High crime communities also tend to be large in size and high in
population density, overcrowding, residential mobility (particularly poor communities),
and percentage non-White (Agnew, 1999).
It is not only the risk of becoming an offender that is of concern but also the fact
that the juveniles re-engage in criminal activity over time. The longer the juvenile keeps
out of trouble the less he/she will be seen throughout the criminal justice system. The
main goal of reentry into society is to have returned an individual who has discharged
his/her legal obligation to society by serving his/her sentence and has demonstrated an
ability to live by society's rules. To achieve this goal, the primary objective for the
offender and the criminal justice system is to prevent the repetition of antisocial behavior,
and this process should begin at sentencing and continue throughout the period of release.
And when the goal of reintegration has been met, the moment should be officially
acknowledged so that the offender's new life can begin (National Institute of Justice,
2000). To accurately predict the recidivism of juvenile offenders, researchers need
information on a variety of sources such as psychological education, prior criminal
behavior, progress in the institutional program and family involvement, social
adjustment, personal characteristics, social and economic environment, and the ethnic
characteristics, among others. However, the more important objective for the juvenile
system is to identify juvenile offenders before they become chronic offenders.
Since prior research tends to only provide descriptive data and partial direction on
the causes and patters in problems of recidivism, and the increase of seriousness of
crimes committed by young offenders, the purpose of this study is to explore, in depth
both patterns of recidivism among a sample of juveniles and the possible variables
associated with recidivism among White Americans, African Americans and Hispanics.
In the next section, I present a review of the literature that will explain some of the
variables that have been examined in prior research that relate to recidivism, general
concepts associated with recidivism, and I will try to fill the gap in knowledge about
recidivism across different ethnicities. To examine this issue, this project uses a sample
of youth released from the California Youth Authority and followed for 4 years.
REVIEW OF LITERATURE
Juvenile delinquency refers to any number of behaviors performed by young people
that are violations of laws applicable to young people's behavior (Kaplan, 1984). Crime
patterns and their consequences have been studied, but less importance has been given to
juvenile crime. According to James Alan Fox (1994) juvenile delinquents are not only
violent teens maturing into even more violent young adults, but also they are being
succeeded by a new and larger group of violent teenagers (Minerbrook, 1994).
Increasingly, juvenile courts have required offenders to compensate their victims
(Butts and Snyder, 1992). Legislators attempt to restore the victim's losses by restorative
justice, community service, or time in jail. Unfortunately, at times, these programs do not
advocate the steps toward crime-free lives. Empirical research has tried to identify the
risk factors that characterize the juvenile crime activity but research has been low to
materialize on this front, especially across race.
But is the recent offending increase equal for all ethnic-races? Among Whites and
African Americans, the latter have higher crime rates than Whites (Jackson, 1997). Non-
whites commit not only more crime, but also commit more serious crime than other
groups (Jackson, 1997), and this is especially the case among African Americans.
Furthermore, juvenile offenders with extensive prior records appear to have a high
probability of reoffending (Visher, Lattimore and Linster, 1991), and this is especially the
case among minorities.
In the study of recidivism, research on criminal careers is now considered the state
of the art (Farrington, 1992). A criminal career is a sequence of offenses during a period
of an individual's life, meaning that the criminal behavior is repeated several times and it
is not an isolated incident. This repetitive criminal behavior is called recidivism and
indicates the proportion of the population that becomes involved in criminal behavior, at
what age the criminal behavior begins, how long the criminal career lasts, and the number
of offenses typically committed during the course of the career (Farrington, 1992). It is
also defined as an estimate of the percentage of released prisoners who commit another
offense. Estimates of recidivism vary with the length of the follow up period and the
measures selected (see Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1994). For example, in a recidivism
study in Kentucky (Kentucky Department of Corrections, 2000), approximately 33% of
the total of the inmates released in 1995 returned to prison within two years.
The ideal approach for studying recidivism requires a longitudinal data (a follow-
up of a period of time). Taxman and Piquero's (1998) analysis of drunk-driving
recidivism conceptualized the dependent variable, recidivism, as whether or not
recidivism occurred within the follow-up period, and the time until recidivism measured
in days. Similarly, Lee (1980), conceptualized recidivism as a dynamic social process in
which the time until recidivism, conceived as a failure or rearrest, is the dependent
variable. Policymakers also consider recidivism an important measure of the corrections
system's performance (Florida Department of Corrections, 2001).
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics (1994), there are three different
measures of recidivism: rearrest, reconviction and reincarceration. Rearrest refers to any
arrest for a felony or serious misdemeanor that was reported to the state identification
bureau or the FBI after release from a correctional institute. It also can be understood as
any counts of contact between the offender and the justice system without regard to
whether the contact results in the offender actually re-entering the jurisdiction of the
justice system. Reconviction refers to a conviction on at least one charge after the date of
release from prison. Reincarceration refers to any return to prison or any admission to a
local jail with a sentence for a new offense. The Texas Youth Commission reported in the
National Recidivism Methods Study (1997), that 27 states use the fallowing recidivism
* Rearrest, 6 states, 22%;
* Reincarceration, 5 states; 19%;
* Readjudication; 3 states; 11%;
* Recommitment, 11 states; 41%.
Recidivism research has been used differently in adult and juvenile justice
populations; in adult populations it has primarily been employed by correctional policy
makers in order to create a probation or parole guideline based on determinations of
which individuals are at risk for future offenses (Quist and Matshazi, 2000).
Juvenile justice policy makers have used recidivism as an outcome measure in
rehabilitation programs. In theory, the purpose of the juvenile justice system is to avoid
incarceration of children and adolescents and emphasize rehabilitation (Bartol and Bartol,
1994). The population has directed criticism at the juvenile justice system because its
courts are overcrowded, recidivism rates are high, and there is a lack of system efficacy
(Harrison, Maupin and Mays, 2001). Moreover, repeated juvenile delinquency can lead to
career paths in criminal activity in adulthood. Therefore, researchers explain the use of
two types of actions to prevent this criminal activity: active sanctions that are class or
seminars, community service assignments, participation in educational programs, and
passive sanctions, verbal reprimands, written warning, and disciplinary probation
(Kompalla and McCarthy, 2001), in order to prevent reincarceration. Furthermore,
Olshak (1999) argued that active sanctions in particular are an alternative for reducing
Several studies have demonstrated that high-risk offenders can be identified by
gathering information on a youth and parent interviews. However, gathering this
information to identify juveniles as chronic offenders is limited because it is too costly to
do so. Consequently researchers argue that looking at second-time offenders is more
plausible to identify them as chronic offenders because they represent a small proportion
of all juveniles brought to court, they recidivate more frequently, and likely, become
chronic delinquents (Smith and Aloisi, 1999).
Theoretical accounts have been applied to understand recidivism. Two theories will
be discussed in this section
Hirschi's Social Bonding Theory
For most criminologists, Hirschi's social bonding theory is referred to as control
theory (Akers, 1999; Barlow and Kauzlarich, 2002). This theory proposes that the
"delinquent acts result when an individual's bond to society is weak or broken" (Hirschi,
1969:16). The assumption of the theory is that deviant behavior is lessened when people
have strong bonds with other members of society. It is an individual's ties to social
institutions that inhibit or control them from committing deviant acts.
The four main elements of this theory are: attachment, commitment, involvement
and belief. Hirschi argues that the stronger these elements with parents, neighbors, adults
and peers are, the more the individual's behavior is controlled and maintained in
conformity, and the less likely the opportunity for the individual to commit crime. On the
other hand, the weaker these elements are, the weaker the social bonds are, and the more
likely the individual will commit crime. Another important aspect of this theory is that
these elements are inter-correlated, meaning, the weakening of one will probably weaken
the others (Akers, 1999; Yablonsky, 2000).
Attachment refers to the close affection ties to others, admiration of them and
identification with them. According to this element, if individuals are insensitive to
others' opinion, the more likely the individual is going to commit a crime, because they
are less compelled by the norms (Akers, 1999). Hirschi argues that attachment to
individuals such as parents is important in controlling delinquent tendencies and
maintaining conformity. The important aspect is the attachment to people, not necessarily
the character of the person that the individual is attached to: "The more one respects or
admires one's friends, the less likely one is to commit delinquent acts" (1969:152).
Commitment refers to the extent to which individuals have built up an investment
in conventionality and can be jeopardized or lost if they engage in deviant behavior.
People develop a stake in their education, reputation or building careers investments such
as a job or family are in line according with this element. When people are faced with the
decision to commit a criminal act, they weigh what they can lose and what they can gain
if they commit a crime. Commitment refers to a more or less rational element in the
decision to commit a crime.
Involvement refers to an individual's involvement in conventional activities, e.g.
leisure activities, spend time with parents, friends, athletic clubs, and participation in
legitimate extracurricular activities. The more the individuals' involvement in
conventional activities, the less likely they are believed to get in trouble or commit crime.
If the individual is busy doing other conventional things, they will not have time to
Belief refers to the importance of obeying the rules and the belief of legitimacy of
conventional values and norms. Hirschi argues that this element does not refer to the
belief about specific norms or laws; it is just the belief of general norms or laws. Hirschi
argues that the less a person believes the individual should obey the rules, the more likely
the individual is to violate them.
Hirschi (1969) tested his control theory with a self-report survey administered to
4,000 high school students in California. He found that youth with more attachment to
parents were less likely to show deviant behavior. In regard of commitment, Hirschi
found that commitment to conventional values was related to good behavior. However,
conventional activities lead to some increase in crime.
Agnew (1985) explored this theory in a study of almost 1,900 male youths. The
juveniles were first interviewed in the tenth grade and then again in the eleventh grade.
For involvement, he found it to be stable over the two-year period. However, attachment
to parents, school grade and commitment explained only 2% of the variation in
delinquency. Agnew described this finding as the result of the maturation of the children
and therefore the importance of the bonds may become diminished overtime. In another
study, the attachment between the child and the parent was found to not be correlated
with delinquency, and the involvement in school-related activities and delinquency were
negatively related (Greenberg, 1999).
Moffitt's Developmental Theory
According to Moffitt (1993), rates of prevalence and incidence of offending is
higher in adolescence such that by age 17, we observe the highest rates of criminality at
which point it drops when the adolescent reaches the adulthood. However, this does not
mean that criminal behavior starts a few years before age of 17; instead for some
offenders criminal activity emerges very early in life, age 7. Furthermore, the career
activity of an adolescent changes over time. There is a group of adolescents that engage
in antisocial behavior at every stage of the life-course, life-course-persistent, and a larger
group of offenders who follow the well-known age-crime curve, or adolescence-limited.
Among those persistent offenders, a small percentage of them are frequent crime
offenders, meaning that the most persistent offenders are responsible for about 50% of
known crimes. These high-rate offenders begin their criminal activity earlier and continue
through time, have been arrested by police in the early teen years, which can be seen as
an important variable in predicting long-term recidivistic offending (Moffitt, 1993).
In her developmental taxonomy, Moffitt presents some of the causes of individuals'
antisocial behavior. She starts by pointing out factors that can be present at individuals'
birth or before birth. One of the common factors is the neuropsychological
("[A]natomical structures and psychological processes within the nervous system [which]
influence psychological characteristics such as temperament, behavioral development,
cognitive abilities, or all three", Moffitt, pp. 677) function of the infant; this means that
the neural development can be disrupted by the use of drugs or poor nutrition before
birth. In addition internal factors can also contribute to neuropsychological risk, for
example child abuse and neglect. This may explain who becomes a frequent offender and
who does not. Moffitt also argues that verbal and executive functions are correlated with
antisocial behavior of life-course-persistent offenders. In this sense, she identifies
learning disabilities that cause problems with the expressive speech, writing skills, and
reading skills among others. These learning disabilities are also caused by parental
heritance or lack of remedial cognitive stimulation provided by the parents to their
children's below average cognitive capacities.
In sum, Moffitt argues that criminal activity is caused by cutting off opportunities
to practice prosocial behavior, due to discipline problems and academic failure and could
lead to a life-course-persistent offending. On the other hand, those youth with lees
likelihood of following life-course-persistent trajectories encounter motivation for crime
when they enter to adolescence; during that period they mimic other's behavior, but
eventually they enter into adulthood and desist from crime.
Analysis of the Factors that are Related to Recidivism among Juvenile Offenders
Research has identified several factors that contribute to recidivism. Fendrich and
Archer (1991) suggested that factors expected to influence recidivism among juvenile
offenders include social and demographic characteristics such as age, commitment, race
and gender, intellectual functioning, i.e., IQ achievement test scores (Duncan et al., 1995;
Carcach and Leverett, 1999), family functioning and environment, prior criminal history,
alcohol and drug abuse, and family background (Visher et al., 1991). Also, prior research
consistently has shown that most recidivism occurs fairly swiftly following release
(Winner et al., 1997).
When time served in institutions was introduced to predict recidivism, in a study
among youth serious offenders from the California Youth Authority in 1981, Visher,
Lattimore, and Linster (1991) found that time served contributed significantly to
recidivism, and was statistically significant only for those who had not recidivated in the
first 36 weeks following release. In a similar study, Schmidt and Witte (1988) found that
longer incarcerations were related to a greater risk of recidivism, as measured by time to
re-incarceration. The same result was found in a study conducted by Myner, Santman,
Cappelletty and Perlmutter (1998). In a sample of juveniles, these authors argued that the
length of first incarceration was associated with a greater likelihood of recidivism (Myner
et al., 1998).
Cognitive ability refers to abstract thinking ability and IQ. Researchers argue that
lower cognitive ability results in impulsivity, attention deficits and lack of abstract
thinking (Moffitt, 1993). Furthermore, Moffitt (1993) argues that differences in cognitive
ability exist between people that engage in criminal activity during their adolescence and
those who engage in life-long criminal activity. On the other hand, individuals with
higher cognitive ability are more likely to desist from illegal activities than those with
lower cognitive ability. In sum, those with more significant academic deficits are more
likely to commit a delinquent act again in their life.
Recidivism has been found to be higher for persons who had not completed high
school than among high school graduates. Delinquent behavior has been found to be
associated with poor academic performance (Farrington, 1987) and school attendance is
also predictive of recidivism (Cymbalisty et al., 1975). Consistent with Farrington's
findings (1987), Myner et al. (1998) found, in a study among male juveniles convicted of
criminal offenses in California, that lower GPA's are related to reoffending. Researchers
reported that men who had a lower IQ scores were at greater risk for criminal activity
than those who had higher scores. Individuals with lower IQ scores reported more
delinquent acts than individuals with higher IQ scores. In another study, Haberman and
Quinn (1986) found that in a sample of 759 previously incarcerated juvenile offenders
only about 12% completed high school after returning to the community.
When looking at age, studies have related the age at first arrest to recidivism.
Furthermore, this relationship seems to be curvilinear, i.e. recidivism increases in the
early teenage years and decreases after about age sixteen (Fendrich, Archer and Kennedy,
1998; Gruenewald and West, 1989). In a study by Lanza-Kaduce, Gartin, Dundes,
Blount, Boulinois-Manning, Kuhns, Holten, Mahan, Taylor, Terry, Frank and Godshall
(1990), they found that older inmates reoffended less frequently. The Bureau of Justice
Statistics (1987a) found similar results showing that recidivism was inversely related to
the age of the prisoner at time of release: the older the prisoner the lower the rate of
recidivism. The same study documented that more than 75% of those age 17 or younger
when released from prison were rearrested, compared with 40.3% of those age 45 and
older. The peak age of onset (the beginning) of a criminal career was 14 (4.6% of first
convictions), with a second peak at 17 (4.4%). The Kentucky Department of Corrections
(2000) found similar results in that young offenders recidivated at higher rates than older
individuals. In a sample of 5,509 Australian juvenile offenders, Carcach and Leverett
(1999), found that juveniles between the ages of 14 and 17 years recidivate the most
compared with the older ones. The authors suggest that this pattern is caused by the
influence of delinquent peers.
Moreover, those individuals who were first convicted at the earliest age (10 to 13)
have been found to be the most persistent offenders. The average duration of criminal
careers dropped sharply from those first convicted between the ages of 14 and 16 (8.2
years) to those first convicted between 17 and 20 (2.7 years). This finding suggests that
males first convicted as juveniles were much more persistent offenders than those first
convicted as adults (Farrington and Hawkins, 1991). In another study, the Florida
Department of Corrections (2001) found that the average inmate's probability of
reoffending drops by 2.1% for each year older the inmate is at release and that younger
offenders reoffend more than older offenders. Overall, more than three quarters (78.3%)
of those convicted as juveniles were also convicted as adults, compared with less than a
quarter (21%) of those not convicted as juveniles.
Seriousness of Offense
Several studies have documented that high rates of juvenile recidivism are found
among chronic juvenile offenders and those who commit serious crimes (Bureau of
Justice Statistics, 1987a). Recidivism is higher for those who have committed serious
offenses (Kentucky Department of Corrections, 2000). Gruenewald and West (1989), in
their study of recidivism among juvenile offenders, found 73% recidivism for serious and
chronic offenders. Another study by Visher, Lattimore, and Linster (1991) found that
chronic juvenile offenders released from California Youth Authority have an 88%
recidivism rate. Duncan, Kennedy and Patrick (1995), in a study of 129 juveniles released
from a training school in Florida, found that 52% of the juvenile offenders were
rearrested within 6 months of their release. Similarly, the Bureau of Justice Statistics
(1987a) found that 69% of juvenile delinquent parolees were rearrested for serious crimes
within 6 years of their release.
However, in a study of recidivism of 396 prison releases over the 12 months period
following their dates of release from confinement, Lanza-Kaduce, Parker and Thomas
(1999) found that sex offenders and violent offenders were less likely to re-offend.
Recidivism is also more likely among property offenders than among violent offenders,
which is likely to be due to the differences between parolees from private and public
prisons (see also Craig and Budd, 1967). Similar results were obtained by the Florida
Department of Corrections (2001) whose study of male parolees uncovered that released
inmates whose primary offense was violent, were 32% less likely to reoffend. Carcach
and Leverett (1999), found that juveniles dealt in court for violent and property offenses
had similar levels of recidivism, and the most interesting finding was that these two
groups of offenders, i.e. violent and property offenders, had higher rates of recidivism
compared with those charged with drug offenses.
Alcohol and Drug Abuse
A drug is any chemical or chemicals that change the body function, and may alter
its biological structure (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1994). Alcohol and drug abuse is a
global phenomenon. It has been said that the use of alcohol may increase hostile behavior
(Reiss and Roth, 1993). Many of the crimes committed have their roots in alcohol and
drug addictions, and this has lead to an increase in the United States' prison population.
Most directly, it is a crime to use, possess, manufacture or distribute drugs classified as
having a potential for abuse (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1994).
Several studies have shown that alcohol and drug abuse predicts recidivism and it is
a contributor to criminal behavior (Myner at al., 1998, Wierson and Forehand, 1995).
Evidence of the association between drugs, alcohol, and violence has been well
documented. For example, in a report by the Bureau of Justice Statistics (1993), almost
50% of prison inmates had used illegal drugs in the month before the offense for which
they were incarcerated and about 30% were under the influence of drugs at the time of
the crime. In sum, empirical research has consistently shown a relationship between
alcohol use and aggressive behavior (Parker and Auerhahn, 1998; Taylor, 1983).
In another study, Taxman and Piquero (1998) showed that alcohol use contributes
to criminal offenses with a sample of Maryland offenders. Furthermore, Ge et al. (2001)
argued that adolescents who smoke, drink and use illicit drugs are more likely to commit
delinquent acts compared to those who do not smoke, drink or use illicit drugs. In a
sample of 27,414 arrestees, Martin et al., (2001) found that almost 95% of the sample
reported that they have tried alcohol at some point during their lives; approximately 52%
of the sample had also consumed alcohol 72 hours prior to their arrest and almost 21%
reported the use of alcohol at the time of their offenses.
Family background can be defined as the sum of positive or negative factors, which
include providing for basic needs, attention, marital status of the parents, sexual,
psychological abuse, domestic violence between parents and employment of parents
among others (Heilbrun et al., 2000). Adolescents that experience these stressors are
considered "at risk" meaning that juveniles with these risk factors begin a trajectory of
criminality, addiction and dependency early in life (Carr and Vandiver, 2001). Cohesion
and good communication between parents and children is strongly associated with good
Analysis of youth's family characteristics such as criminal behavior of parents or
siblings, poor parenting, family conflict and disruption in family structure are
characteristic of serious juvenile offenders (Visher et al., 1991). One longitudinal study
showed that delinquency is associated with parent separation, implying that the marital
status of the parents lead to juvenile delinquency (Patterson et al., 1989). Patterson et al.
has also argued that the lack of family supervision is an important determinant of early
onset delinquency, and research supports this hypothesis (Patterson et al., 1992).
Regarding race, research suggests white releases are less likely to reoffend than
are releases from other racial groups (see Lanza-Kaduce, Parker and Thomas, 1999;
Bureau of Justice Statistics 1988, 1992). The recidivism rate is higher among African
Americans and Hispanics, and it is increasing steadily (Kentucky Department of
Corrections, 2000), with non-whites having slightly higher recidivism rates than whites,
approximately 5 to 8% higher for each measure. Individuals of Hispanic-origin also had
recidivism rates that were about 6% higher than those among non-Hispanics (Bureau of
Justice Statistics, 1987b). On average, African Americans recidivate 43% more than non-
African Americans. In sum, African Americans appear to recidivate at higher rates than
White Americans (Florida Department of Corrections, 2001).
The Bureau of Justice Statistics (1987a), in a report about recidivism of young
parolees, found that recidivism rates were higher among African Americans: Hispanics
had recidivism rates that were 5 to 12% less than African Americans, but higher rates
than White Americans. In another study, Ge et al. (2001) found that African American
juveniles were arrested more frequently than were [White Americans] European
Americans. Similar results were found for Hispanics having more arrests than European
The primary purpose of this study is to identify the risk factors associated with: 1)
White Americans; 2) African Americans; and 3) Hispanics in terms of their ability to
predict recidivism. Risk factors analyzed represented information on demographic,
familial, and behavioral characteristics available in records at the California Youth
Authority (CYA) and Wenk's (1990) data set. The present study also explored serious,
and violent crimes committed by juveniles, and the factors that could be related to
recidivism, age of juvenile offenders, cognitive abilities, alcohol and drug use, and
marital status of parents and the juvenile offenders in attempt to add to the limited
number of studies in the recidivism literature, especially across race. In order to achieve
this goal, survival analysis will be used as the method of analysis.
This study also uses two theories as a theoretical backdrop: Social Bonding Theory
(Hirschi, 1969) and Developmental Theory (Moffitt, 1993). According to the former,
delinquency takes place when social bonds are weak. In this study, marriage is used as
the indicator of social bonds and it is expected to be negatively correlated with
recidivism. Marital status of the parolees could be correlated with Hirschi's Social
Bonding Theory elements of achievement and commitment. The former refers to close
affection ties to others and the latter to the investment that individuals have built up and
can be jeopardized if they engage in criminal behavior. Parolees' marital status could
inhibit their antisocial behavior as a result the close ties with their wife and because they
do not want to loose their family. The higher the attachment and commitment of the
parolees with their wife, the lower the likelihood of reoffending, and the lower the
attachment and commitment, the higher their antisocial behavior after being release.
Moffitt's Developmental theory predicts that serious and persistent antisocial
behavior is caused by learning disabilities, among other influences. Some of the variables
that I am going to use to predict recidivism across race have been mentioned by these two
theories. Cognitive ability is one of the recidivism predictors that is going to be used in
the model, and according to Moffitt's theory, lower cognitive ability results in higher
antisocial behavior and therefore in higher rates of criminal activity. In this sense, the
lower the cognitive ability of the juvenile offenders, the higher the likelihood of
recidivism, and the higher their cognitive ability, the lower the likelihood of recidivism.
The scarcity of studies that examines the predictive power of recidivism across race
makes this study a contribution to the literature. The importance of the topic lays in the
lack of information and research about recidivism and the three major ethnic groups.
Looking for answers about recidivism in the United States makes this topic relevant and a
The data used here is part of a larger study designed to examine the criminal career
patterns of violent juvenile offenders (Wenk, 1990). The data contain a total sample of
4,146 juvenile male offenders who were committed to the Reception Guidance Center at
the Duel Vocational Institution in Tracy, California between 1964 and 1965. This
institution was a facility operated by the California Youth Authority (CYA), which
provides a setting for training, treatment, and education of serious, juvenile offenders.
Two studies have used Wenk's data to predict recidivism using different sets of
variables. Donnellan, et al. (2000) and Ge et al. (2001) conducted both of the studies.
Their first approach looked at the cognitive abilities among adolescent-limited and life-
course persistent offenders among White Americans, African Americans and Hispanics.
They argued that delinquent juveniles have lower scores on test of cognitive abilities. In
order to gather information on adolescents' cognitive abilities, Ge et al. looked at
different tests; the California Achievement Test (CAT), California Test of Mental
Maturity (CTTM), General Aptitude Test Battery (GATB) and Raven Test of Progressive
Tiegs and Clark (1951) designed the CAT or California Achievement Test that was
used in California schools to determine academic achievement. It gauges information on
academic domains of reading, arithmetic, language and overall academic achievement.
The CTTM is a test designed by Sullivan et al., (1963) to test language and non-language
intelligence. The general Aptitude Test Battery was designed by the U.S. Department of
Labor. Its diverse test includes verbal, arithmetic, spatial, perceptual and general
intellectual abilities. Finally, the Raven Test of Progressive Matrices was developed by
Raven (1960) and measures general intelligence abilities. The researchers found that for
White Americans, juvenile offenders had significantly higher scores in the cognitive tests
than life-course-persistent offenders. Similar results were found for Hispanics; however,
for African Americans, the results were opposite showing that there were no significant
differences between adolescent-limited offenders and life-course-persistent offenders on
tests of cognitive ability.
The second study conducted by Ge et al., a year after their first one (2001) looked
at 2,263 juvenile offenders. Variables such as age at first arrest, family environment,
cognitive ability, and early behavioral problems were measured to predict the persistence
of criminal offending into adulthood among males. Looking first at the cognitive ability
analyses, the researchers found that cognitive ability was not significantly related to
juvenile delinquency. In a second analysis, they turned to the question of the prediction of
chronic offending; in this case, cognitive ability was a significant predictor of persistent
offending after the offenders turned 18. When the researchers looked at alcohol and drug
abuse, they found that its use influenced the amount of delinquency but not the timing of
delinquency. In sum, Ge et al. found that low scores on cognitive ability were
significantly associated with frequencies of arrest. Furthermore, involvement with
alcohol and drug use was a predictor of adult arrest, suggesting that alcohol and drug
abuse influence the criminal behavior of the juveniles. Importantly, neither of these two
studies examined the inter-relationships between race and cognitive abilities within a
Six independent variables will be used from Wenk's data in this research. The first
variable, California Achievement Test, is used to determine academic achievement; it
gauges information on academic domains of reading, arithmetic, language and overall
academic achievement. This variable measures the scores of the California achievement
total grade placement of the juvenile offenders.
Marital status of the parolee is the second variable. This variable measures the
marital status of the juvenile offenders. This variable will be recorded into two variables:
not married (0) and married (1).
The third variable that will be used in the research is marital status of natural
parents. The variable will be coded into not married (0) and married (1).
Alcohol and drug use are the fourth and fifth variables to be incorporated in the
research. History of alcohol misuse measures either if the juvenile offenders have had
moderate problems or severe problems with alcohol in general, which means, if they
consumed alcohol on a daily basis. History of drug use dealt with use in general, and it
measures if the juvenile offenders have used drugs on a daily basis.
Age at reception is the sixth variable and measures the age of the juvenile offenders
at reception. The mean for the juvenile offenders age at reception is 19.0 with a standard
deviation of .97 (range: 16-24).
The dependent variables that will be used in the research are as follows: days to
parole suspension measures the days to which the juvenile offenders have committed
another crime and been suspended from parole. The variable parole outcome success
measures if the juvenile offender, after being released from jail, has or has not recidivated
There are two main questions to be answered in this research:
1. Are the survival recidivism patterns the same for White Americans, African
Americans and Hispanics? And
2. Do the independent variables relating to recidivism differ among White
Americans, African Americans and Hispanics?
As mentioned above, the survival analysis method will be used to examine the data.
To analyze the timing of recidivism, Cox proportional hazard regression (Cox, 1972), a
type of survival method, will be used. The method seeks to explain the differences in
terms of both of the following criteria whether a reconviction occurred (i.e., failure), and
the period of time until the reconviction. The Cox proportional hazard regression
facilitates analysis because it tests the dependent variables and its effects separately while
controlling for the other variables and it is a method for modeling time-to-event data en
the presence of censored cases. The hazard model seeks to focus on the patterns of
recidivism exhibited in the sample until data censoring. The hazard model provides the
probability that a subject will fail in a period of time. It also provides more information
than typical recidivism measures because it allows for un-covering heterogeneity among
subjects with respect to the risk of recidivism. Importantly, it also does not make
assumptions about the distribution of the underlying heterogeneity, and it identifies
covariates that tend to be associated with the time to failure (Visher et al., 1991).
Results for One-Way ANOVA
One-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) was performed on the test of the
independent and dependent variables separately for each ethnic group. The idea was to
conduct separate analyses for each ethnic group by controlling for the impact of ethnicity
on test scores. Table 1 provides the results of the analysis for White Americans,
Hispanics, and African Americans. Although Whites Americans, African Americans and
Hispanics did not differ on parole outcome/success, there were mean differences on time
to failure. For example, White Americans were more likely to fail sooner, in terms of
days, than were African Americans by approximately forty days. On the other hand,
Hispanics were less likely to fail sooner than African Americans by approximately one
day. As shown in Table 1, Cognitive Ability was significantly different across ethnic
groups, p< .000. White Americans had higher cognitive abilities than African Americans
and Hispanics. History of Alcohol Misuse and History of Drug Misuse was also
significantly different across ethnic groups, p< .000. This pattern suggests that Hispanics
were more likely to be involved in the use of alcohol and drugs than White Americans
and African Americans. However, African Americans were less likely to be involved in
the use of alcohol and drugs than White Americans.
Table 1 Descriptive Statistics: One-Way ANOVA analysis.
Variable White African-American Hispanic Sig
M SD M SD M SD
Cognitive A. 6.63 12.79 5.15 11.69 4.9 13.23 w>b>h*
Marital S. Parolee .13 .34 .12 .33 .16 .36 yes***
Marital S. Parents .48 .50 .49 .50 .56 .50 yes*
History Alcohol .56 .72 .43 .63 .94 .79 h>w>b*
History Drug .23 .63 .19 .55 .45 .82 h>w>b*
Parole (l=succ) .61 .48 .61 .49 .61 .49 no
Days parole susp. 251 168.93 294 185.13 295 199.66 w>b>h*
Notes: *p< .000, **p< .05, ***p< .10
Results of the Survival Analysis
The outcome measures discussed focus on whether the juvenile offender has
recidivated or not. The way to operationalize recidivism is by examining the length of the
time until the new arrest. This measure of recidivism allows the researcher to examine
desistance from criminal behavior and to explore the differences across race. To analyze
the timing of recidivism, I used Cox proportional hazard regression, which is a method
for modeling time-to-event data in the presence of censored cases.
The results of the analyses are presented in Figure 1 (Survival function). Figure 1
presents the survival function, taking into account the variable days to parole suspension
and parole outcome success. Juvenile offenders recidivate the most approximately after
480 days of being released. We can observe this same result if we look at the hazard rate,
which is the estimate of the probability per unit time that a case that has survived to the
beginning of an interval will experience an event in that interval. The hazard rate gets
higher approximately at days 490 and 504. The median survival time for the juvenile
offender data is 239.03 days.
-200 200 400 600 800 1000
DAYS TO PAROLE SUSPENSION
Figure 1 Survival Function
Table 2 contains the results of the Cox proportional hazard regression for the
sample of Hispanics. The first column is B (slope coefficient); the second column is the
SE (standard error), the third is the Wald statistic (this statistic test the hypothesis that B
equals 0 in the population). The negative coefficient means that a higher value on the
independent variable leads to a lower likelihood of re-arrest, i.e. the effect of the variable
is such that it increases the time until parole failure. For Table 1, Hispanics were less
likely than non-Hispanics to incur parole failure. In other words, Hispanics had a longer
time to failure than non-Hispanics.
Table 2 Cox Proportional Hazard Models Predicting Hispanic Juveniles Parole
Variable B SE Wald
Race (1 = Hispanic) -.222 .075 8.872
Cognitive A 000 .003 .002
Marital S. Parolee -.035 .089 .154
Marital S. Parents -.003 .058 .002
History Alcohol .027 .040 .457
History Drug .020 .041 .022
Age par at reception -.002 .032 .002
Notes: Log-Likelihood = 14619.15; X2= 9.180; df= 7; p= .220
Table 3 contains the Cox Regression for the African American sample. The results
suggest that African Americans were less likely than non-blacks to incur parole failure. In
other words, African Americans had a longer time to failure than non-blacks. Table 4
provides the results for the Cox Regression pertaining to the sample of White Americans
suggesting that White Americans were more likely than non-White Americans to incur in
parole failure. The White American juvenile offenders had a lesser time to failure than
The results for the split-race sample, which are presented in Table 5, reveal that
among White Americans none of the independent variables are significantly related to
recidivism. The same results were found for Hispanics. In the case of the African
American juvenile offenders, all but one variable was insignificant, p< .05. The increase
in drug use increases the probability of parole failure for the sample of African American
Table 3 Cox Proportional Hazard Models Predicting African American Juveniles Parole
Variable B SE Wald
Race (1 = African -.159 .066 5.755*
Cognitive A .001 .003 .038
Marital S. Parolee -.052 .089 .338
Marital S. Parents -.012 .058 .041
History Alcohol -.013 .040 .106
History Drug -.007 .041 .032
Age par at reception .007 .032 .042
Notes: Log-Likelihood = 14613.00; X2= 6.044; df= 7; p= .523
Table 4 Cox Proportional Hazard Models Predicting White Americans Juveniles Parole
Variable B SE Wald
R~o / =Wht1 J;+, 74A n0Q 21.83"
Marital S. Parolee
Marital S. Parents
Age par at reception .002 .032
Notes: Log-Likelihood = 14597.05; X2= 22.23; df=
7; p= .002
Table 5 Cox Regression Hazard Model: Split-Race Analysis
Variable White Hispanic
B SE Wald B SE
Cognitive A .004 .004 .834 -.008 .007
Marital S. Parolee -.197 .123 2.562 .120 .185
Marital S. Parents .063 .082 .581 -.214 .131
History Alcohol -.027 .055 .237 .143 .088
History Drug -.011 .056 .036 -.060 .075
Age par at reception -.034 .044 .583 .096 .070
Notes: *p < .05
B SE Wald
-.001 .006 .055
.089 .185 .230
.051 .110 .215
-.009 .085 .011
.216 .099 4.76*
-.009 .062 .021
DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSIONS
The main purpose of this study was to identify the risk factors associated with
White Americans, African Americans and Hispanics in predicting recidivism. This study
is the first that I am aware of to compare three different ethnic races in predicting
recidivism on a series of independent variables on a model of life-course criminal
offending. The data was collected by Wenk (1990), and presents information on
demographic, familial and behavioral characteristics in records at the California Youth
Authority (CYQA). First, I examined if there was any difference across race in cognitive
ability, history of drug use, history of alcohol use, parole outcome and days until
reconviction. I then sought to study the influence of these correlates on parole
success/failure and days to parole suspension across race. Finally, I sought to demonstrate
in a split-race sample the correlation among the independent variables and the dependent
variables with each ethnic group.
I found differences on time to failure among White Americans, African Americans
and Hispanics, whereas I did not find any differences on parole outcome/success. In this
sample, White Americans were more likely to fail sooner than African Americans and
Hispanics. When cognitive ability was taken into account, White Americans were more
likely to have higher cognitive ability than their counter parts, but it was not related to
recidivism. I found that Hispanics were more likely to be involved in the use of alcohol
and illicit drugs than White Americans and African Americans. The latter were less likely
to be involved in its illicit use compared with White Americans. I conducted additional
analyses designed to predict recidivism across race. The results of these analyses revealed
that juvenile offenders recidivated the most approximately after 480 days. Finally,
looking at each ethnic group, I ran separate analyses to predict recidivism. The Cox
Proportional Hazard Regression results for the sample of Hispanics showed that
Hispanics were less likely to recidivate than non-Hispanics; for the sample of African
Americans, they were less likely to recidivate than non-African Americans; and for the
sample of White Americans, they were more likely to incur parole failure than non-White
From this study, it is possible to assess different limitations. First, the records
obtained by Wenk (1990) were gathered in 1963, this could suggest that the records
obtained are outdated. Second, the data did not include information on offender's
previous alcohol and drug use, nor did it include information on cognitive ability before
release. Third, the data set only included information only for male offenders.
The findings do not support any of the two theories used in this analysis. Both
Social Bonding Theory (Hirschi, 1969) and Developmental Theory (Moffitt, 1993) did
not show any significant relation between the variables. For example, marital status of the
parolee was expected to be correlated with recidivism. However, the results showed non-
significant effects. For Moffitt's Developmental Theory, cognitive ability was believed to
predict recidivism. In this study, White Americans had higher cognitive scores, but
cognitive abilities were not related to recidivism. On the other hand, Hispanics had lower
cognitive ability scores and were less likely to fail sooner than White Americans, but
cognitive abilities were not directly related to recidivism.
The "null" results from this study could be due to several factors. First, other
different variables, such as peer relationships, should be included in the study to predict
variation in the dependent variable. Second, the data set used in this study came from a
select sample of serious offenders, and it should be interesting to look at a sample of non-
serious offenders. The variables in the data set predicted continuing criminal activity.
Finally, the juvenile criminal records were composed only from official records and
further research should look at self-report records as well.
Despite the limitations, these results could be considered fundamental for the study
of recidivism across race. The scarcity of studies examining differences in recidivism
across race makes this study an important contribution to the literature. It appears that in
this particular sample cognitive ability, history of alcohol and drug use was not related to
recidivism in neither of the ethnic groups, although differences were found across race in
the timing of recidivism. Further research should continue studying issues related to
recidivism as well as obtain different factors from those studied in this study to determine
how various risk factors relate to recidivism generally, and across race in particular.
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With the constant support of my parents and brothers, I have aspired to seek a
position in the law field, and had achieved this goal in my country of origin, Bolivia. As
soon as I graduated from high school I began attending the Catholic Bolivian University
(Universidad Catolica Boliviana) pursuing the law degree. My interest in law and
especially criminology led me to continue the specialization in a foreign country. After
five years of continued education and my interest on pursuing my goals, I decided to
enroll at the prestigious University of Florida. I moved to Gainesville, Florida, with the
aim of getting a Master in Arts at the University of Florida. I am planning to continue my
education at the University of Florida and obtaining Ph.D. with a major in criminology