Abstract: Race and Gender Differences in Recidivism Among at-Risk Alabama Youth (Society for Social Work and Research 26th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Racial, Social, and Political Justice)

Race and Gender Differences in Recidivism Among at-Risk Alabama Youth

Sunday, January 16, 2022
Independence BR A, ML 4 (Marriott Marquis Washington, DC)
* noted as presenting author
Lewis Lee, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, AL
Mandi Fowler, PhD, Program Director, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, AL
Hee Yun Lee, PhD, Professor/Associate Dean for Research/Endowed Academic Chair on Social Work and Health, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, AL
Jill Beck, JD, Director, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, AL
Alesia Allen, CCE/JUV, Executive Assistant to the Director, Alabama Department of Youth Services, Montgomery, AL
Background and Significance: It is well-documented that juveniles who have had previous contact with the juvenile justice system often re-engage in delinquency, resulting in youth recidivism rates of more than 50%. Literature says race and gender are known as core demographic factors in accounting for youth recidivism. Regarding race, literature points out that a disproportionately high percentage of incarcerated juveniles are youth of color, especially Blacks. For gender, numerous studies indicate that being male is a strong predictor of recidivism. However, to the best of our knowledge, youth recidivism in Alabama has not been empirically investigated yet, rendering unknown the effect of race and gender on recidivism in this region. Using administrative data, thus, we examine race and gender differences in recidivism among Alabamian youth.

Methods: By collaborating with the Department of Youth Services (DYS) after university IRB approval, we obtained de-identified Student Information Management System data, a repository of information on youth who were committed to DYS custody, which allowed us to analyze the 2015 cohort (N = 1,324) who were between the ages of 12 and 21 and came from 63 out of the state’s 67 counties. Recidivism outcomes were collected at 6 months, 1st year, 2nd year, and 3rd year after discharge, with mined data from the Administrative Office of Courts. Recidivism was measured as the adjudication for a new criminal offense, excluding technical violations, which was dichotomized (no/yes). Racial groups other than Whites and Blacks had relatively low numbers, and was thus coded as a dichotomous variable (Whites/non-Whites). Gender was coded as a dichotomous variable (female/male). Cochran’s Q and Chi-square tests were conducted.

Results: Majorities were Black (61.6%), followed by White (37%) and other races, including Asian, American-Indian, Native-Hawaiian, and White/Black mixed (1.4%), and boys (85%). Rates of recidivism from 6 months to year 3 were 27.6%, 39%, 49.1%, 54.4%, respectively. Cochran’s Q test revealed there was a significant change in the proportion of youth recidivism across the four time points (p < .001). Chi-square tests confirmed there were statistically significant associations between race and recidivism at each time point (p < .01, ϕ = .08 - .10), indicating that non-White youth were more likely to recidivate than White counterparts. There were significant associations between gender and recidivism at each time point (p < .01, ϕ = .07 - .16), highlighting that boys were more likely to recidivate than girls.

Conclusion and Implications: This is the first data-driven study to examine youth recidivism in Alabama. We found that recidivism rates are highest within the first year and decline into the third year, resulting in a cumulative recidivism rate of 54%, which is similar to those reported in other studies conducted in different states. The patterns of recidivism by race and gender in Alabama are also consistent with previous studies in other regions. Identifying the hidden risk factors associated with recidivism by race and gender is important using a mixed method to better understand youth recidivism.