Thursday, October 23, 2014

Oregon Juvenile Crime Treatment Failing

Charles French and John S. Foote's study Juvenile Justice in Oregon gives a grim view of the effectiveness of the current juvenile justice philosophy in most Oregon counties. Three of the counties (Multnomah, Washington and Clackamas) include 45% of Oregon residents. They have bought into the Annie E. Casey Foundation philosophy that limiting youth detention and lower involvement of formal justice institutions such as the courts in their cases will result in less juvenile crime. 

The idea is that through an evaluation process it be can determined which juvenile offenders are most likely to need official intervention and the others are better left to their normal home environment. An expected side benefit is that a lower incarceration rate will mean lower state expenses to house and oversee juvenile offenders.

However, the data shows that Oregon's arrest rate (6,699 in every 100,000) is much higher than the national average (4,897 in every 100,000) and juvenile corrections costs per capita ($64.01) is 2nd highest in the nation at almost three times the national average ($20.14).

Juvenile Justice in Oregon by Charles French and John S. Foote, p. 86

The Casey-implanted philosophy of fewer detentions and interventions as regards juvenile offenders is in opposition to Oregon's stated statutory philosophy of "'early and certain intervention and sanctions' as the most effective way to hold juveniles accountable for their criminal behavior. (ORS4l 9C.00 1 )" 

Oregon's juvenile arrest rate in 2010 was 12th highest in the nation. So, just in terms of cutting arrests, Oregon is not doing well compared to the other states. In 2011 Oregon's juvenile arrest rate for property crimes was 12th highest in the nation and almost worst in the nation at 2nd highest for juvenile drug arrests.  
In at least one area of juvenile crime, adolescent drug abuse and resultant drug addiction, Oregon’s performance in the Casey Foundation era borders on catastrophic, deteriorating over a decade from better than average to the second worst rate in the nation. In Oregon today, as many minors use illegal drugs as drink alcohol. (p. 4)
Oregon did well only in juvenile violent crime arrest rate. Oregon scored below the national average at 38th highest in the nation. However, as French and Foote point out it is exactly in the violent crime area that there is much less discretion on applying Casey standards because juveniles ages 15 and up are treated as adult offenders.
The contrast between the performance of Oregon’s juvenile and adult systems is best seen in the area of major violent crime, where twenty years ago adult jurisdiction was mandated by state statutes for juveniles 15 years of age and older for major violent crime. Since the implementation of adult jurisdiction for major violent crimes in 1995, violent juvenile crime has decreased by 68%, one of the very best performances in the nation. (p. 4)
Multnomah County has paid $6,000 for an analysis critical of French/Foote "logic", but has not denied the facts presented.


MAX Redline said...

Foote has been widely rebuked among the Porkland Left, but he has been remarkably good. Which is likely why he's despised.

My personal view is that early intervention and appropriate punishment are more likely to yield good results, which is of course, diametrically in opposition to the Casey view. Unlike theirs, however, mine is rooted in behavioral modification and training.

In order to effectively modify the behavior of any animal, it is first necessary to identify and alter the environmental factors that facilitate and encourage the propagation of the behavior.

One thing that many people, even many animal care professionals, get hung up on is the term, "punishment". Contrary to popular belief, it doesn't involve beating the hell out of the animal in question; it involves extinguishing the undesired behavior pattern over time.

Many years ago, by way of example, managers at Portland's zoo entertained the idea of isolating an Asian elephant cow because she would attack, seemingly without provocation. I did an ethological survey and noted that she was deeply attached to conspecifics, and determined that their approach would do more harm than good. I suggested training the behaviors out of her.

This was unheard of, but I was given permission to attempt it.

Fine. I rounded up two cows that she deferred to, and put one on either side of her. Then I led her between them and told her to kneel. I'd already observed that she had about a ten-second window before she attacked. At nine, I rolled under one of the other cows.

She slammed into a cement wall, expecting to find me. I was never there. I didn't do anything to her; she did it herself. And as she backed up, shaking her head - well, there I was. "No." Now let's try it again.

In less than a week, the 10,000 pound cow had decided that the little 150 pound guy was actually her best friend. I could not shake her; she followed me everywhere like a very large, very gray, dog.

She could be irritating, but it beat the alternative.

Behavior modification is an incredibly powerful tool, but only if you understand how to use it.

T. D. said...

You have a natural talent for figuring things out, Max. And I agree that behavior modification, either by positive or negative reinforcement, is a powerful tool for those who cannot or will not listen to reason. Which includes a lot of juveniles.

MAX Redline said...

Behavior modification is really pretty simple, TD. It's unfortunate that so few grasp its power, and completely misunderstand it. Reinforcement is the whole deal. Positive reinforcement increases the probability of occurrence of desired behavior. Negative reinforcement is not - as most believe - "punishment". It simply decreases the probability of occurrence on undesired behavior.

In the example above, I never once struck the elephant; her behavior alone determined the outcome, and it really didn't take long for her to realize that.

Juvenile humans aren't stupid, either.

All animals base their decisions upon experienced outcomes derived from past decisions. It's a really easy concept. Unless, I suppose, you're a politician.

T. D. said...

Max, would you say not effectively distinguishing between negative reinforcement and punishment is why the recidivism rate is so high?

MAX Redline said...

Good question, TD. I do believe that there's a lot of confusion in corrections and politics over over the two. Negative reinforcement changes behavior, just as positive reinforcement does - positive reinforcement increases likelihood of repeat occurrence; negative reinforcement decreases likelihood of occurrence.

Punishment, as a general rule, does not decrease likelihood of occurrence (unless, of course, it results in the death of the offender - which may be used as an example to keep other people in line).

In terms of advanced B-mod, then, the conflation of "negative reinforcement" with "punishment" is counterproductive because it quite obviously produces undesirable results - assuming that the goal is to alter the behavior and to ultimately entrain more productive behavior patterns.

T. D. said...

Thanks, Max. Here's another area where they should hire you as a consultant. Little action, like the Casey model, doesn't do anything. But, even "early and certain interventions and sanctions" have to be properly thought out.