For young people, the threat of jail time is often used as a deterrent as parents and the authorities attempt to warn them about the ramifications of breaking the law. If they do so anyway, jail time is then used to reform them and keep them from committing crimes in the future. But does this actually work?
The opposite of the intended impact
Many studies not only dispute that this works, but show that it actually has the opposite of the intended impact. For instance, a study carried out at MIT, the prestigious center for higher learning, found that young people who were incarcerated were more likely to commit crimes as adults than those who were not incarcerated in their formative years.
A quick counter to this argument would be that those who didn’t spend time in jail often include those who didn’t break the law to begin with, but researchers were prepared for that. They studied young people who were incarcerated after a conviction and those who, while also convicted, were not sentenced to jail time.
In short, everyone in the study had a similar past record. And those who were incarcerated simply saw their odds of committing crimes in adulthood go up by 23%. This has been interpreted to show that jail time “grooms” these young people to become adult offenders, rather than reforming them or acting as a deterrent.
Those facing charges
It’s important for young offenders and their parents to think about their future and the legal options they have to make it a positive experience.