Date of Degree

9-2021

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Program

Criminal Justice

Advisor

Deborah Koetzle

Committee Members

Jeff Mellow

Kevin Wolff

Craig Schwalbe

Subject Categories

Criminology and Criminal Justice

Abstract

Decisions made by criminal justice professionals in the juvenile justice system can have long-lasting and far-reaching impacts on youth. Structured decision-making (SDM) models, such as disposition matrices, seek to reduce unwarranted disparity and ensure uniformity in sentencing, while still safeguarding public safety and improving youth outcomes. This dissertation is the first to review the New York City (NYC) Disposition Matrix. Using bivariate and multivariate analyses, the present study examines factors that predict probation and judicial adherence to the matrix and provides some reasons for probation deviations. It also explores whether matrix recommendations and judicial adherence predict rearrests.

Findings demonstrate that a greater percentage of females and Hispanic youth were assessed as high-risk compared to males and non-Hispanic youth. Furthermore, a greater percentage of males, non-White youth, non-Hispanic youth, and younger youth had more serious arrest charges than females, White youth, Hispanic youth, and older youth. While most youth demographics were not significant predictors of probation and judicial adherence to the matrix, they may be indirect predictors. Legal factors, on the other hand, were significant predictors of adherence, with most predicting probation adherence, and probation adherence and remand case predicting judicial adherence. Therefore, legal involvement with the justice system appears to play a role in predicting probation and judicial decision-making.

Results also indicate that both matrix recommendation cell and judicial adherence predict rearrests. Specifically, youth who were sentenced to dispositions less restrictive than the matrix recommendation had lower odds of rearrest than those who were sentenced to dispositions in adherence to the matrix recommendation, while youth who were sentenced to dispositions more restrictive than the matrix recommendation had higher odds of rearrest than those who were sentenced to dispositions in adherence to the matrix recommendation. Given these findings, the matrix may need to be refined to ensure that utilizing it actually helps improve outcomes for youth. Finally, risk level was a significant predictor of rearrests, which appears to support the accuracy of the YLS in predicting rearrests in NYC.

There are several methodological limitations to this study, First, data was not provided on several variables, including probation officer and judge ID, treatment information, and disposition length. Second, recidivism data provided by New York City (NYC) Department of Probation (DOP) and Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) may not have captured all relevant juvenile arrests for various reasons. Third, this study was purely quantitative in nature; in the future, it would be beneficial to include a qualitative component to gain a better understanding of why probation officers and judges were deviating from the matrix.

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