Study finds 25 percent juvenile recidivism rate in Lackawanna County

by Incarcerated Flavors

 One in every four juvenile offenders from Lackawanna County who had a case that closed in 2007 committed another misdemeanor or felony within two years, a statewide study found.

The county’s 25 percent recidivism rate among young offenders topped the state average of 20 percent and was the second-highest in Northeast Pennsylvania, behind only Wyoming County at 28 percent, according to the study released Tuesday by Pennsylvania Juvenile Court Judges’ Commission.

Read the report

The study marked the first comprehensive examination of juvenile recidivism in the state. It defined recidivism as a subsequent delinquency adjudication or criminal court conviction for either a misdemeanor or felony offense within two years of a 2007 case closure.

Of the 265 juveniles in Lackawanna County with cases that closed in 2007, 67 had committed another crime by 2009, the study found. Another 102 cases were expunged.

Among other regional counties, rates included: Susquehanna, 23 percent; Luzerne, 21 percent; Wayne, 20 percent; Pike, 12 percent; and Monroe, 9 percent. Statewide, rates ranged from a high of 45 percent in Clarion County to a low of zero percent in Sullivan and Clinton counties.

Lackawanna County officials tried to put a positive spin on the numbers, pointing out the flipside of a 25 percent recidivism rate is a 75 percent non-recidivism rate.

“I think a 75 percent success rate is a very good thing,” said Deputy District Attorney Frank Castellano, who handles juvenile cases for the district attorney’s office. “That is showing us that three-quarters of the young people who come through the juvenile system are taking advantage of the care, treatment, rehabilitation and programs that the juvenile court has to offer.”

Rich Clifford, chief juvenile probation officer, said the county’s proactive approach to the problem of juvenile delinquency is evident in the support for police resource officers in area schools.

“They have done a terrific job,” he said. “Overall, they handle the small problems so the big problems don’t occur.”

The study was designed to be a benchmark against which to measure the effectiveness of the state’s Juvenile Justice System Enhancement Strategy. The state started implementing evidence-based practices and other elements of the strategy in 2010.

The study’s authors cautioned against comparing the recidivism rates of individual counties because of limitations created by expunged cases, in which records are erased and unavailable for analysis.

Mr. Clifford said Judge Trish Corbett, who presides in juvenile court, is probably more aggressive than many other judges around the state in expunging records to remove a potential barrier to higher education or the military for juveniles who successfully complete their programs.

“Our kids who have done very well, who have gone through high school and have achieved some stuff, can probably get their records expunged two to three years out,” he said