Abstract: (see Poster Gallery) Effect of Juvenile Justice Financial Sanctions and Fee Repeal on Recidivism (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

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SSWR 2023 Poster Gallery: as a registered in-person and virtual attendee, you have access to the virtual Poster Gallery which includes only the posters that elected to present virtually. The rest of the posters are presented in-person in the Poster/Exhibit Hall located in Phoenix A/B, 3rd floor. The access to the Poster Gallery will be available via the virtual conference platform the week of January 9. You will receive an email with instructions how to access the virtual conference platform.

643P (see Poster Gallery) Effect of Juvenile Justice Financial Sanctions and Fee Repeal on Recidivism

Sunday, January 15, 2023
Phoenix C, 3rd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Luyi Jian, MS, MSW, Doctoral student, University of California, Berkeley, CA
Jaclyn E. Chambers, PhD, Research Associate, Urban Institute, Berkeley, CA
Lina Montoya, PhD, Postdoc Fellow, University of California, Berkeley
Jennifer Skeem, PhD, Professor, University of California, Berkeley
Background and Purpose: Increasingly, advocates are arguing against the imposition of financial sanctions on families with justice-involved youth. Advocates specifically recommend that fees be repealed because fees are meant to offset administrative costs, unlike fines and restitution, which are meant to punish youth or restore victims. One argument for reform—based on a single supportive study (Piquero & Jennings, 2017)—is that financial sanctions increase youths’ chances of reoffending.

Given limited research, however, the impact of fees (specifically) and financial sanctions (as a group) on youth’s recidivism is unclear. In this study, we rigorously examine (1) whether juvenile fee repeal in Alameda County, California reduced recidivism, and (2) the extent to which total financial sanctions increase recidivism.

Methods: To address these two aims, we accessed, linked, and analyzed administrative data from county and state agencies, using a machine learning approach paired with Targeted Maximum Likelihood Estimation (TMLE). Baseline covariates included age, gender, race, socioeconomic status, risk level, qualifying referral offense and year.

For Aim 1, TMLE was performed to compare the pre-repeal (N=1,656) and post-repeal (N=745) cohorts of youth on any arrest in the year after probation placement. For Aim 2, TMLE was performed on the whole sample (N=2,401)using financial sanctions in the first three months as interventions (coded as none/low/moderate/high; or as none/any) and any arrest in months 4–24 as outcome.

Results: Aim 1 results indicate—counter to predictions—that the likelihood of rearrest was greater in the post-repeal cohort than the pre-repeal cohort (by 7 percentage points, 95% CI: 0.03–0.11, p < 0.01). Given that analyses of the pre-repeal sample indicate that fees alone do not significantly predict rearrest, we assume this difference between cohorts is attributable to an unobserved variable.

Aim 2 results indicate that having any financial sanction (compared to no financial sanction) modestly but significantly increased youth’s likelihood of rearrest (by 4 percentage points, 95% CI: 0.001–0.08, p <0.05). The level of sanctions imposed (none/low/mod/high), however, did not significantly predict reoffending.

Conclusions and Implications: We replicated and extended Piquero & Jennings’ (2017) finding that financial sanctions are a weak risk factor for recidivism. However, we found no support for the premise that fees (specifically) are risk factors—or that repealing fees will reduce recidivism. Our findings provide no support for the argument that fee repeal reduces recidivism. We recommend advocates instead rely on the empirically supported argument that fee repeal meaningfully reduces the load of financial burdens that families with justice involved youth otherwise bear (see Chambers et al., 2021).