By Brinda Kalita
MIAMI, FL – A study here has revealed startling findings on the impact of restitution and fees on juvenile recidivism in Florida across race and ethnicity.
The 50-page study, conducted by Dr. Alex R. Piquero from the University of Miami, Dr. Kevin T Wolff from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and Dr. Michael T Baglivio from the Analytical Initiatives LLC, looked to gain a better understanding of the relationship between restitution and recidivism in youths.
The authors concluded that “fees and restitution do not necessarily prevent recidivism and actually exacerbate the risk of recidivism. Race/ethnic and contextual (neighborhood concentrated disadvantage) differences were found not as much in whether monetary sanctions were imposed (once all youth- and offense-related factors were considered in tandem), but more so in the dollar amount of those sanctions.”
They added, “The imposition of fees exacerbated the reoffending of White and Black youth, while restitution requirements increase the odds of recidivism among Black youth particularly. Survey responses show confusion and concern regarding fines and youths (or parents’) ability to pay them.”
The main variables the authors had studied included the independent variable of restitution and the dependent variable of recidivism. Other variables that were analyzed included things such as demographics, criminal history, residential instability, and immigrant concentration.
A majority of the data for these variables came from the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice.
The authors said they sourced their data from here because this specific database “maintains complete demographic, offense history, justice system placement, and risk assessment information on all youth arrested in Florida and it captures whether, and the amount, fees and restitution were required for each youth. This allows for assessing the impact of fees and restitution on reoffending separately.”
Additionally, a survey was created and administered by the FDJJ to “examine the perceptions of youth placed in a juvenile justice residential facility regarding monetary sanctions and the impact of those sanctions on the youth and their families.”
Using a variety of different statistical analyses, such as univariate and bivariate statistics and logistical analyses, the authors came to the following conclusions.
First, the authors found that after accounting for other factors that may induce recidivism, such as neighborhood concentrated disadvantages, “there was only a small, non-significant difference between the two matched groups (21.9 percent rate of recidivism for those who had fees vs 20.2 percent who did not), suggesting that restitution was unlikely to have an effect of continued juvenile delinquency once all other factors were accounted for.”
However, they also found, “The restitution requirements increase the odds of recidivism among Black youth with the predicted probability recidivism calculation for white youth being around 0.15 while for Black youth it was closer to 0.2.”
They also emphasized how the survey responses that were collected also “show confusion and concern regarding fines and youths (or parents) ability to pay them.”
The authors also discuss the following policy implications of their study, noting, “The current study demonstrates youth assigned fees evidence significantly higher recidivism than similarly situated youth not assigned fees, as measured by an adjudication for a new criminal offense committed within 365 days.”
However, they do acknowledge that their study does not lead to clear cut implications on juvenile restitution and how to go about it policy wise.
But, they do make it clear that the current system of juvenile fees “exacerbates racial/ethnic disparities in the juvenile justice system.”
The authors said, “It may be argued that those states/jurisdictions still assigning juvenile fees should ensure justice system placement is not extended or that youth are not successfully completing diversion programs or community-based placements/violating probation simply because fees had not been paid.”