Restoration or Retribution: An Empirical Examination of the Recidvistic Patterns of a Group of Young Offenders from New York City
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This study uses a data set on adolescent offending, originally collected by a team of researchers at the Vera Institute of Justice in New York City, to critically examine the role of incarceration in criminal rehabilitation. A theoretical explanation of recidivism is constructed using four criminological theories: life course theory (Sampson & Laub 1993), differential association theory (Sutherland 1939), deterrence theory, and reintegrative shaming theory (Braithwaite 1989). This thesis uses these theories to investigate societal factors that may contribute to young offenders’ recidivism (versus successful rehabilitation). It is argued that youths who: (1) come from unconventional family environments, (2) possess deviant peer associations, (3) receive incarceration as punishment, and (4) undergo a stigmatizing shaming process are more likely to recidivate. The combination of these factors is also expected to be intensified during incarceration. An empirical examination of the effects of these factors on recidivism supports the main hypotheses advanced. Although conventional family environments and deviant peer associations are successful in determining first-time offending, results from this study suggest that these are inadequate as predictors of recidivism. Conversely, an extension of Braithwaite’s (1989) reintegrative shaming concept was found to be a strong predictor of subsequent offending. Medium sentence lengths in prison were associated with increased risk to recidivate. Most importantly, the results gathered some support for restorative justice approaches to criminal rehabilitation. Future considerations for recidivism research are explored.