Research Note: Justice System–Imposed Financial Penalties Increase the Likelihood of Recidivism in a Sample of Adolescent Offenders


The study concluded that financial burdens increase the likelihood of recidivism among adolescent offenders.

The authors of this study analyze the effects of financial penalties (fines, fees, and restitution) two years after being imposed on 1,167 youth with a supervision status of adjudicated delinquent or a consent decree in 2013. The study breaks down costs by demographics and case characteristics (supervision status and offense type) to understand the relationship between financial penalties and recidivism. The findings suggest financial penalties increase the likeliness of recidivism. Although the findings align with prior research conducted in the adult justice system, without more research, policy-related groups will lack the information on how financial penalties impact juvenile offenders, whether they are applied disproportionately to those who lack the financial means to pay them, and how that affects their offending trajectory into adulthood.

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Key Findings:

  • 27 percent of the youth in the study were adjudicated for a new delinquent offense and/or convicted in adult criminal court. 
  • Youth who were older, male, non-White, and had prior dispositions had higher recidivism rates.
  • Youth ordered to pay restitution had recidivism rates of 33.3 percent.
  • Being non-white was positively and significantly associated with the total fines, fees, and restitution assessed upon case closing.
  • Youth with a drug or property offense had higher recidivism rates, 33.1 percent and 32.5 percent, respectively.
Alex R. Piquero and Wesley G. Jennings
Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice: An Interdisciplinary Journal