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Screening juvenile offenders for further assessment and intervention

 

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Release Date: Thursday, 1 November 2007

New research by the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research shows that only one in three juvenile offenders placed on supervised orders in NSW are living with both natural parents. In one in ten cases, one or both parents have deceased.

These findings emerged from a long-term study of nearly 400 juvenile offenders placed on their first supervised order in 2000/2001.

Nearly one in five of the young offenders studied by the Bureau had been neglected or abused. About one in seven had been placed in out-of-home care. Only a third were still at school at the time they committed their index offence. More than a third had been suspended or expelled from school. More than two-thirds had changed address three or more times in the last five years.

Seventy-one per cent of juvenile offenders were reconvicted of a further offence within four years.

A large number of factors were found to be associated with the risk of further offending. These included being under 14 years of age, being of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent, not living with both natural parents, having experienced some form of trauma (e.g. sexual abuse, imprisonment of a parent), having been placed in out of home care, having been the subject of a confirmed report of neglect or abuse, having one or both parents deceased, not attending school at the time of the index court appearance, having been suspended or expelled from school, having been convicted of a theft offence and having had several prior contacts with the justice system.

The key risk factors are those associated with school attendance/behaviour and past contact with the criminal justice system. Not being at school, having been suspended or expelled from school and having had several prior contacts with the criminal justice system all independently increase the likelihood of another conviction. Once these factors have been taken into account, the other markers of recidivism provide no additional assistance in identifying the juveniles who will re-offend.

Commenting on the findings, the Director of the Bureau, Dr Don Weatherburn, said they highlighted the need for early intervention to reduce the risk of further offending.

"Our research indicates that it would be feasible to set up a triage system so that juvenile offenders at risk of further offending are identified early on and placed on programs to reduce the risk of further offending", he said.

Further enquiries: Dr Don Weatherburn 9231-9190 (work) 0419-494-408 (mobile).