Youth in Adult and Juvenile Correctional Facilities: Comparison of Services and Behavioral Management

Published date01 December 2021
Date01 December 2021
Subject MatterArticles
Criminal Justice Policy Review
2021, Vol. 32(9) 992 –1017
© The Author(s) 2021
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/08874034211014927
Youth in Adult and Juvenile
Correctional Facilities:
Comparison of Services and
Behavioral Management
Insun Park1 and Christopher J. Sullivan2
Given contemporary efforts to prevent adolescents from experiencing the negative
consequences of incarceration, it is critical to assess the impact of juvenile transfer.
Relative to a potential deterrent effect on the recidivism of transferred juveniles,
empirical evidence regarding their institutional experience is lacking. Drawing on
record data from those admitted to adult and juvenile systems in a Midwestern state
from 2011 to 2014, this study compared the correctional experience of teenage
males housed in an adult prison with young adults and teenagers housed in juvenile
residential facilities. After controlling for individual profiles using the propensity score
analysis, youth in adult facilities had similar or more access to institutional programs
but also exhibited relatively higher involvement in misconduct based on official
reports. The implications for correctional policies and practices for transferred and
incarcerated youth are discussed.
juvenile transfers, incarceration, correctional policy, treatment, institutional misconduct
All U.S. states maintain mechanisms to waive youth from juvenile court jurisdiction
to criminal courts. At its peak during the 1990s, more than half of transferred and con-
victed youth were sentenced to terms of incarceration (Brown & Langan, 1998).
Although an increasing number of states are reducing the use of transfer, most
1The University of Akron, OH, USA
2University of Cincinnati, OH, USA
Corresponding Author:
Insun Park, Departments of Criminal Justice and Sociology, The University of Akron, Akron, OH 44325-
0001, USA.
1014927CJPXXX10.1177/08874034211014927Criminal Justice Policy ReviewPark and Sullivan
Park and Sullivan 993
currently continue to allow teenage offenders to be processed and housed in adult
facilities (Furdella & Puzzanchera, 2015). While research on the juvenile transfer’s
deterrent effect has shown a null or mixed effect on recidivism (Bishop & Frazier,
2000; Fagan, 1996; Jensen & Metsger, 1994; McGowan et al., 2007), an increasing
number of researchers have studied the factors that condition the impact of transfer
(e.g., Augustyn & McGloin, 2018; Loughran et al., 2010; Trulson et al., 2020).
Inconclusive findings about the effect of transfer may be due to heterogeneous condi-
tions or sanctions that youth experience in the correctional system after sentencing
(Zane et al., 2016). This suggests that gaps remain in our understanding of adult con-
finement conditions experienced by transferred and incarcerated youths, and it is
important to address relevant research questions in a variety of sites and samples.
The justice systems for adults and juveniles are governed by distinct models of
justice in the United States. Comparative studies indicate that, consistent with its
founding principles, the juvenile justice system provides a more treatment-oriented
and positive environment to facilitate behavioral change in the correctional stage. On
the contrary, adult correctional facilities are generally perceived to be relatively puni-
tive and unsafe by youths (Bishop et al., 1998; Forst et al., 1989; Lane et al., 2002).
Results are inconclusive in terms of program participation; some scholars have found
greater program availability in adult facilities (Fagan & Kupchik, 2011; Kupchik,
2007), while juveniles in adult prisons have reported a lack of work programs, coun-
seling services, and medical resources in others (Ng et al., 2012). Scholars have ques-
tioned whether the adult correctional system could have detrimental effects because it
lacks appropriate services and support, exposes youth to higher rates of violence, and
isolates youths from their natural peer groups (Griffin et al., 1998).
The research on juvenile transfer is moving beyond simply considering a deterrent
effect and toward examining the conditioning variables that might generate heteroge-
neous findings. This study addresses a portion of this gap in the research by assessing
what happens to juveniles after they are transferred and incarcerated—relative to oth-
ers who have remained in the juvenile justice system and slightly older early adults
who are also incarcerated. Two domains of institutional experience are examined:
treatment program participation and institutional misbehavior. The study has benefited
from the unique opportunity to analyze a sample of teenage males incarcerated in adult
prisons and make comparisons across systems. Using propensity score weighting and
integrative data analysis approaches, the experiences of youth housed in adult facili-
ties are assessed and interpreted in the context of similarly situated samples with com-
parable characteristics.
Review of Literature
Models of Justice and Incarceration of Juvenile Offenders
Differences in confinement conditions in correctional facilities can be understood in
the models of justice that govern the juvenile and adult justice systems. Owing to pro-
gressive era reformers’ efforts and cultural shifts in the 19th century, the juvenile

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