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In January 2010, the Campbell Collaboration published a report titled Formal System Processing of Juveniles: Effects on Delinquency.” This report offers an analysis of the effects of formal processing of juveniles.

The debate involving formal processing of juveniles has two components: deterrence and the labeling effect. Proponents argue that formal processing deters juveniles by scaring off low-level offenders. It is also believed formal processing screens high-level offenders allowing for placement in a program that prevents recidivism. In contrast, opponents argue that formal processing creates a labeling effect, a process where juveniles are labeled delinquent further perpetuating this behavior.

This publication explores the objective: Does juvenile system processing reduce subsequent delinquency?” Researchers collected data from 29 studies published from 1978 to 2005 measuring severity, prevalence, self-report, and incidence. The data collected indicates that formal processing does not have an effect on crime control. In fact, it had a negative impact on reducing juvenile crime when compared to diversion programs and a simple release.

The publication suggests that a legislative policy review regarding the formal processing of juveniles is necessary. This publication highlights the need to maximize community-based services and the use of diversion programs prior to introducing juveniles into the justice system.

~Tamra Otten, CJCJ staff