MSU researchers awarded $600,000 grant to examine juvenile justice system

Contact: Emile Creel

STARKVILLE, Mississippi—Two researchers at the Mississippi State University Center for Social Science Research are receiving $597,000 from the National Institute of Justice to examine practices in Mississippi’s juvenile justice system.

SSRC Research Professor and Associate Director Angela Robertson and Assistant Research Professor Sheena Gardner are teaming up on the three-year project, “Research on Juvenile Court Admission Practices and Recidivism.”

The project aims to examine how juvenile justice practices regarding risk assessment, processing applications for court admission, and processing cases affect juvenile recidivism in Mississippi. In addition, they will guide a pilot test of the impact of new admission practices on recidivism.

Gardner notes that currently, a substantial proportion of youth referred to juvenile court for status offenses are processed formally. This is the case, even though most young people who commit status-related offences, such as breaking curfew or underage drinking, never progress to more serious criminal behaviors, and youth diverted from the formal justice process have low recidivism rates.

She goes on to say that formal procedures with young people at low risk of recidivism are a waste of resources and can even lead to negative results. Research has shown that additional entanglement with the juvenile justice system increases the likelihood of continued deviant behavior.

“By basing initial case processing decisions on the level of recidivism risk assessed upon admission to juvenile court, juveniles with a lower risk of recidivism will be diverted from subsequent juvenile justice processing, thus reserving limited resources to youth at higher risk and in need of services,” Gardner said.

From the pilot study, they hope to show efficient use of limited resources that can be replicated in other states.

“Mississippi is a very rural state with limited juvenile justice resources and services for youth involved in the justice system. The learnings from policy and practice can be applied to other juvenile justice jurisdictions across the country that do not use recidivism risk screening early in the system,” said Robertson, a veteran researcher who also coordinates SSRC research and development. for the Mississippi Alcohol Safety Education Program.

“The SSRC has a long history of working with juvenile justice, and we are excited to see where this latest research will lead and the impact it will have on our condition,” said Devon Brenner, the center’s acting director.

The Social Science Research Center was established at Mississippi State University in 1950 to promote, enhance, and facilitate social science research and related academic pursuits and is online at www.ssrc.msstate .edu.

MSU is the main university in Mississippi, available online at