Change in the Context of Relationships: The Effect of Visitation on Dynamic Risk Change Among Incarcerated Youth

AuthorBrae Young
Published date01 July 2021
Date01 July 2021
Subject MatterArticles
Change in the Context
of Relationships: The Effect
of Visitation on Dynamic Risk
Change Among Incarcerated
Brae Young
The consequences of incarceration for juveniles are vast and well-documented. There is some
evidence, though, that youth can experience positive transformations, including improvements in
dynamic risk during confinement. What we do not yet know is who is the most likely to make such
transformations. Using a sample of 7,269 youth housed in residential placement facilities in Florida,
this paper examines whether visitation is associated with improvements in dynamic risk during
confinement. The results indicate that youth who receive visits and receive them more consistently
make greater improvements across nearly all measures of dynamic risk compared to those who do
not. Further, there is some evidence that change in dynamic risk mediates the relationship between
visitation and recidivism for this group. These findings underscore the importance of continued
availability of visitation programs within residential facilities.
visitation, juvenile justice, family support, risk assessment
We generally think of mass incarceration and its consequences in the context of the adult criminal
justice system. However, the increasing use of incarceration did not spared the juvenile justice
system. Between 1985 and 1995, the number of juveniles sentenced to an out of home placement
increased by 50%(Sickmund et al., 2011). By 1997, a staggering 104,000 youth were in residential
placement facilities in the United States (Sickmund et al., 2017). Although in recent decades, the
reliance on incarceration for juveniles has been curbed, nearly 40,000 youth are still confined in the
United States on a given day (Sickmund et al., 2017). This figure is troubling considering the array
of harms youth face while incarcerated, including separation from loved ones, disruptions in
Texas Christian University, Fort Worth, TX, USA
Corresponding Author:
Brae Young, Department of Criminal Justice, Texas Christian University, 4200 Scharbauer Hall, 2855 Main Drive, Fort
Worth, Texas 76109, USA.
Youth Violence and JuvenileJustice
2021, Vol. 19(3) 308-329
ªThe Author(s) 2020
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/1541204020976769
education, worsened mental health, and exposu re to violence (Cauffman et al., 2007; Potter &
Jensen, 2003; Sickmund & Puzzanchera, 2014).
Despite these challenges, research finds that many youth still experience positive transformations
during confinement (Baglivio et al., 2017; Hay et al., 2018). Baglivio and colleagues (2017), for
instance, found that many youth housed in facilities in Florida experienced improvements in aggres-
sive behavior and impulse control, as well as reductions in substance abuse and family-related issues
over the course of confinement. There is, however, a great deal of variability in the amount of change
youth experience during confinement, with some making much greater improvements than others
(Hay et al., 2018). Indeed, Baglivio and colleagues (2017) found that improvements in dynamic risk
varied greatly with some youth experiencing only “minimal gains” in overall risk compared to the
“sizable gains” made by others. Importantly, research in this area finds that those youth who
experience the greatest improvements during confinement are the least likely to recidivate (Baglivio
& Jackowski, 2013; Baglivio et al., 2017; Raynor, 2007; Wooditch et al., 2014). What we do not yet
know, however, is who these youth are (Baglivio et al., 2018).
There are some reasons to think that the youth who are the most likely to make improvements, or
experience dynamic risk reductions, during confinement are those who have the greatest access to
social ties. Social ties during confinement typically come in the form of visits, which can offer
several benefits that might promote dynamic risk reduction. For one, visits provide an opportunity
for youth to connect with loved ones, who can offer the encouragement, love, and support necessary
for positive, prosocial change (Giordano et al., 2002; Maruna, 2001; Sampson & Laub, 1993). In
addition, from a strain perspective, visits and the support they offer could help youth cope with the
stress and depression that result from the lonely, harsh conditions of confinement (Monahan et al.,
2011). This may, in turn, allow youth to be more receptive to programming options that more
directly reduce dynamic risk. It is important to note, though, that visits do not always go well, and
for some, they represent a unique source of strain (Arditti, 2003; Arditti & Few, 2008; Siennick
et al., 2013; Tasca et al., 2016; Turanovic & Tasca, 2019). Because of this, visits may exacerbate the
stressors inherent in the confinement experience, creating more issues than they solve. Nevertheless,
because visitation programs are available in all residential facilities, and over half of all juveniles
receive visits (Agudelo, 2013; Monahan et al., 2011; Young et al., 2019), it is important to determine
whether visits could reduce dynamic risk and improve the lives of incarcerated youth.
Against this backdrop, the purpose of this study is to understand whether visitation is associated
with dynamic risk reduction over the course of confinement. More specifically, this study uses
ordinary least squares regression to determine whe ther visitation and visitation consistency are
associated with reduction in dynamic risk across 17 domains, as well as change in overall dynamic
risk level. Because improvement in dynamic risk, or risk reduction, is associated with recidivism,
this paper also considers whether visitation is associated with recidivism and if change in overall
dynamic risk mediates that relationship. These analyses are conducted using a coh ort of youth
released from placement facilities in Florida between 2010 and 2015 (N ¼7,296). In conducting
these analyses, this study responds to calls from scholars to understand why some youth make more
significant progress on dynamic risk factors than others (Baglivio et al., 2017) and to better under-
stand the processes that can ultimate ly reduce crime and promote long-term d esistance among
Dynamic Risk Change During Confinement
Around the same time that the adult correctional population increased 400%, the juvenile correc-
tional population increased 50%(Sickmund et al., 2011). The growing reliance on incarceration
began in the 1990s out of concern over the rising juvenile crime rates and an impending wave of
juvenile “superpredators” (DiIulio, 1995; Larson & Carvente, 2017; Zimring, 2013). By the 2000s,
Young 309

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT