Individualization, criminalization, or problem resolution: A factorial survey of juvenile court judges' decisions to incarcerate youthful felony offenders

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Individualization, criminalization, or problem resolution: A factorial survey of juvenile court judges' decisions to incarcerate youthful felony offenders
  This article was downloaded by: [University of North Carolina Charlotte]On: 07 May 2013, At: 14:15Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954Registered office: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK Justice Quarterly Publication details, including instructions for authors andsubscription information: Individualization, criminalization,or problem resolution: A factorialsurvey of juvenile court judges'decisions to incarcerate youthfulfelony offenders Brandon K. Applegate a  , Michael G. Turner b  , Joseph B.Sanborn Jr. a  , Edward J. Latessa c  & Melissa M. Moon da  University of Central Florida b  Northeastern University c  University of Cincinnati d  East Tennessee State UniversityPublished online: 18 Aug 2006. To cite this article:  Brandon K. Applegate , Michael G. Turner , Joseph B. Sanborn Jr. ,Edward J. Latessa & Melissa M. Moon (2000): Individualization, criminalization, or problemresolution: A factorial survey of juvenile court judges' decisions to incarcerate youthful felonyoffenders, Justice Quarterly, 17:2, 309-331 To link to this article: PLEASE SCROLL DOWN FOR ARTICLEFull terms and conditions of use: article may be used for research, teaching, and private study purposes. Anysubstantial or systematic reproduction, redistribution, reselling, loan, sub-licensing,systematic supply, or distribution in any form to anyone is expressly forbidden.The publisher does not give any warranty express or implied or make anyrepresentation that the contents will be complete or accurate or up to date. Theaccuracy of any instructions, formulae, and drug doses should be independentlyverified with primary sources. The publisher shall not be liable for any loss, actions,claims, proceedings, demand, or costs or damages whatsoever or howsoever  caused arising directly or indirectly in connection with or arising out of the use of this material.    D  o  w  n   l  o  a   d  e   d   b  y   [   U  n   i  v  e  r  s   i   t  y  o   f   N  o  r   t   h   C  a  r  o   l   i  n  a   C   h  a  r   l  o   t   t  e   ]  a   t   1   4  :   1   5   0   7   M  a  y   2   0   1   3  INDIVIDUALIZATION, CRIMINALIZATION, OR PROBLEM RESOLUTION: A FACTORIAL SURVEY OF JtWENILE COURT JUDGES DECISIONS TO INCARCERATE YOUTHFUL FELONY OFFENDERS* BRANDON K. APPLEGATE University of entral Florida MICHAEL G. TURNER Northeastern University JOSEPH B. SANBORN JR. University of entral Florida EDWARD J. LATESSA University of incinnati MELISSA M. MOON East Tennessee State University * This project was supported by a grant from the Ohio Department of Youth Services. Points of view expressed in this document are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the Ohio Department of Youth Services. Address all correspondence to Brandon K. Applegate, Department of Criminal Justice and Legal Studies, PO Box 161600, University of Central Flor- ida, Orlando, FL 32816-1600. ** Brandon IC Applegate is an assistant professor in the Department of Crimi- nal Justice and Legal Studies at the University of Central Florida. He has published several articles on public attitudes toward crime control policies and the effective- ness of correctional treatment, and he is co-editor of Offender Rehabilitation (1997, with F. Cullen). *** Michael G. Turner is an assistant professor in the College of Criminal Jus- tice at Northeastern University. He has published in the area of public attitudes toward crime control policy. In addition, his current research interests include as- sessing the effects of protective factors on high-risk youths and examining the effects of adolescent motherhood on the delinquency of adolescent mothers offspring. **** Joseph B. Sanborn Jr. is an associate professor in the Department of Crimi- nal Justice and Legal Studies at the University of Central Florida. He received his PhD in criminal justice from SUNY-Albany in 1984. His research interests include juvenile justice, constitutional law, and human rights. Currently Professor Sanborn is writing a juvenile justice textbook that will be published by Roxbury. ***** Edward J. Latessa is a professor and head of the Division of Criminal Jus- tice at the University of Cincinnati. He received his PhD in public administration in 1979 from Ohio State University. Professor Latessa has published more than 50 works in criminal justice, corrections, and juvenile justice. He is author of four books, including orrections in the ommunity (1997, with H. Allen). Professor Latessa has directed more than 50 funded research projects, and has served as presi- dent of the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences. ****** Melissa M. Moon is an assistant professor at East Tennessee State Univer- sity. She received her MS and PhD from the University of Cincinnati. Her research JUSTICE QUARTERLY, Vol. 17 No. 2, June 2000 © 2000 Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences    D  o  w  n   l  o  a   d  e   d   b  y   [   U  n   i  v  e  r  s   i   t  y  o   f   N  o  r   t   h   C  a  r  o   l   i  n  a   C   h  a  r   l  o   t   t  e   ]  a   t   1   4  :   1   5   0   7   M  a  y   2   0   1   3  310 SURVEY OF DECISIONS TO INCARCERATE Existing research on the criteria used by juvenile court judges in choosing dispositions is limited in two respects. First, the predictor variables in- cluded in most investigations have been limited either in number or in the quality of their measurement. Second, research has not focused on sentenc- ing decisions for serious offenders. Using a factorial survey of uvenile court judges, the present study seeks to determine what factors shape disposition decisions for juvenile felony offenders. The results suggest that judges focus primarily on offense characteristics, and are influenced only marginally by the offender's social characteristics. These findings are more consistent with the view that juvenile courts are becoming criminalized than with the view that individualized reatment is the goal. An alternative interpre- tation-that judges may be problem solvers, trying to dispose of cases effi- ciently-also is proposed. A century has passed since the first individual juvenile court was established in Illinois. In concert with other progressive re- forms of that time, the role of the juvenile court ostensibly was to intervene in children's lives in their best interest (Platt 1977). This rehabilitative orientation necessitated broad discretion so that court officials could pursue case-by-case handling of juveniles (Rothman 1980). In each case, the judge was to carefully consider how the youth's characteristics and life situation may have brought him or her to the juvenile court's attention. Accordingly, disposi- tion decisions were to be highly individualized. After legislative changes and judicial decisions, some scholars have argued recently that the juvenile court has been transformed into a very different institution than the Progressives contem- plated (Feld 1993a:197). Rather than seeking personalized dispo- sitions for troubled youths, the juvenile court has become criminalized, focusing on the offense rather than on the offender's characteristics (Feld 1993a). In the current study, we present sur- vey data pertaining to whether the juvenile court continues to pro- vide individualized attention to juveniles or seeks offense-based justice. In this regard, we explore whether judges base their dispo- sition decisions exclusively on information about the offense--as would be suggested by the criminalization perspective--or also con- sider information about the offender and his or her social context. As a prelude to our study, we review the existing literature on dis- positional decision making and point out its limitations for re- vealing the juvenile court's orientation. interests include correctional policy, community corrections, and evaluation research.    D  o  w  n   l  o  a   d  e   d   b  y   [   U  n   i  v  e  r  s   i   t  y  o   f   N  o  r   t   h   C  a  r  o   l   i  n  a   C   h  a  r   l  o   t   t  e   ]  a   t   1   4  :   1   5   0   7   M  a  y   2   0   1   3  APPLEGATE ET AL. 311 JUVENILE COURT JUDGES' DECISION MAKING For more than 30 years, discretionary decision making has held the attention of juvenile justice scholars (for early work, see, for ex- ample, Terry 1967). Despite abundant research, we are left with few clear conclusions regarding what variables influence judges' disposition decisions. To illustrate, some researchers have reported significant, but typically weak, relationships between sentencing and legal considerations (e.g., current offense, prior delinquent his- tory), administrative aspects (e.g., the particular court and judge, and the availability of dispositional alternatives), and social vari- ables (e.g., race, sex, age, and social class) (see, for example, Bishop and Frazier 1988, 1996; McCarthy and Smith 1986; Secret and Johnson 1997; Wu 1997). In contrast, others have reported null re- lationships with these variables (see, for example, Cohen and Kluegel 1978; McCarthy and Smith 1986; Tittle and Curran 1988). As Sanborn (1996:99) noted, The data from these research efforts indicate there is little consensus and much confusion as to which factors are actually responsible for delinquent dispositions in juve- nile court (for similar conclusions, see Chein and Hudson 1981; Niarhos and Routh 1992; Secret and Johnson 1997). 1 At best, we may be able to conclude that dispositions are more harsh for youths who commit more serious crimes, for those with a more serious rec- ord of prior offenses, and for black juveniles (Feld 1988). Although the existing research has greatly elevated the discus- sion of uvenile court judges' discretion, even the most sophisticated of these studies suffer at least two potential limitations. First, as Sanborn (1996) has observed, the predictor variables included in most investigations of dispositional decision making have been lim- ited either in number or in the quality of their operationalization. Second, disposition decisions most often have been examined for de- linquents as an aggregate group. Some research suggests that the characteristics which influence disposition decisions may differ for various types of offenders, but researchers seldom have disaggra- gated their data (Bishop and Frazier 1996; Wu and Fuentes 1998). Limitations on ndependent Variables Many studies of juvenile courts' disposition decisions have ex- amined only limited independent variables (Bishop and Frazier 1988, 1992, 1996; Johnson and Scheuble 1991; Leiber 1994; Leiber and Jamieson 1995; McCarthy and Smith 1986; Secret and Johnson 1 As an anonymous reviewer pointed out to us, the discrepancy across studies regarding the predictors of delinquents dispositions may result from the localized and variable interests of individual juvenile courts (also see Stapleton, Aday, and Ito 1982).    D  o  w  n   l  o  a   d  e   d   b  y   [   U  n   i  v  e  r  s   i   t  y  o   f   N  o  r   t   h   C  a  r  o   l   i  n  a   C   h  a  r   l  o   t   t  e   ]  a   t   1   4  :   1   5   0   7   M  a  y   2   0   1   3
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