AS KIDS’ INVOLVEMENT WITH THE JUSTICE SYSTEM INCREASES, SO DOES THEIR MORTALITY RATE
As the seriousness of a kid’s contact with the justice system increases, so does their risk of an early death, according to a study published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine.
Researchers split criminal justice system involvement into four categories, looking specifically at kids who were arrested, detained (for a short period), incarcerated, or transferred to adult court.
Youth who were only arrested had a mortality rate 1.5 times that of their peers who had never been arrested.
Kids who were transferred to adult court had the highest risk of dying young: 3.5 times higher than the general population.
About half of all recorded deaths were homicides.
Indiana University School of Medicine researchers followed 49,479 children and teens who were between the ages of 10 and 18 at the time of their first arrest in Marion County, Indiana. The study spans a period of 13 years, from 1999 to 2011, and is reportedly the largest study to look at the connection between kids’ justice system involvement and risk of early death.
The study did show, not surprisingly, that black males accounted for the majority of the deaths that were recorded. But researchers also found that more serious and prolonged justice system involvement was directly linked to higher mortality rates, regardless of race.
“It is well established that black youth, compared with white youth, are over-represented in the justice system and bear a disproportionate burden of death by homicide,” said head researcher Dr. Matthew Aalsma, who is a pediatrics professor at Indiana University School of Medicine. “However, the interaction between justice system involvement and race/ethnicity was not statistically significant. This suggests that the severity of criminal justice involvement, rather than race/ethnicity, is a strong driver of early mortality among youth offenders.”
The study points to the importance of reducing kids’ contact with the criminal justice system through evidence-based violence prevention programs and other diversion methods that target high-risk juvenile offenders.