Date of Degree

2-2022

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Program

Criminal Justice

Advisor

Preeti Chauhan

Committee Members

Kevin Wolff

Mark Fondacaro

Ryan Shanahan

Subject Categories

Criminology and Criminal Justice | Developmental Psychology | Place and Environment

Keywords

New York City, pretrial detention, recidivism, jail admissions

Abstract

Jail incarceration represents an early and prevalent point of contact with the criminal legal system. While there is some evidence of age-related differences in jail incarceration outcomes such as rearrest and reconvictions, existing research typically only make comparisons between adults and adolescents. This bifurcation ignores the unique experiences of a third group: emerging adults aged 18 to 25. Evidence from developmental research combined with shifting social and cultural dynamics suggest that 18-25-year-olds, though adults by law, straddle the line between adolescence and adulthood while facing challenges that set them apart.

The current study incorporates a resources-challenges framework of emerging adulthood to understand age-related differences in jail incarceration by examining the outcomes of adolescents (n = 8,456), emerging adults (n = 48,019), and adults (n = 26,778) after their first admission to pretrial detention. The analysis tests the hypothesis that compared to 16-17-year-olds and 26-31-year-olds, 18-25-year-olds admitted to the New York City Department of Correction between 2005 and 2007 experience more negative outcomes such as longer pretrial lengths of stay, higher bail set at discharge, and greater likelihood of being readmitted pretrial. Additionally, I posit that age-related differences in outcomes are moderated by measures of neighborhood disadvantage including poverty, employment, and educational attainment.

Results show significant age-group differences in pretrial incarceration outcomes. Emerging adults have significantly higher amounts of bail set at discharge, and greater likelihood of being readmitted pretrial compared to adolescents and adults, even after controlling for demographics, borough of residence and arraignment, admission characteristics, and discharge characteristics. Age alone does not predict variation in pretrial lengths of stay, but higher neighborhood poverty and educational attainment appears to increase length of stay for 16-17-year-olds only. Additionally, the likelihood of being readmitted pretrial increases for 16-17-year-olds living in neighborhoods with higher levels of poverty but decreases for 16-17-year-olds living in neighborhoods with higher levels of employment.

Findings from this study have implications for jail operations as well as broader policies that impact young people in the criminal legal system. They come at a time of heightened scrutiny over existing age-related policies across the U.S., and as more jurisdictions move toward raising the age of criminal responsibility. An assessment of age-related differences among the pretrial population will help to standardize age-responsive supervision, treatment, and reentry services to reduce future contact and bring about the most positive outcomes for young adults.

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