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Criminal Justice, Education

Juvenile arrest and collateral educational damage in the transition to adulthood

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Arrested man (iStock)Arrested man (iStock)Arrested man (iStock)

The long-term monetary gains associated with college education have been well-established, but many would-be students never enroll.  Some decide to enter the workforce after completing high school; for others, trouble with the law could be the reason.

A 2012 study from the University of Texas at Austin and Harvard University published in Sociology of Education, “Juvenile Arrest and Collateral Educational Damage in the Transition to Adulthood,” looks at juvenile arrests and educational attainment rates, with a focus on high school and college attendance. The researchers utilized data on adolescents, families, neighborhoods and public schools in Chicago between 1995 and 2002. They focused on juvenile arrests rather than incarceration rates because “incarceration is the last step in criminal justice processing, such that individuals who make it to prison are for the most part so unlike the general population” as to not reflect the typical teen experience.

Key study findings include:

  • “Among Chicago adolescents otherwise equivalent on prearrest characteristics, 73% of those arrested later dropped out of high school compared with 51% of those not arrested, a substantial difference of 22%.”
  • More students with no criminal records who graduated from high school or obtained GED certification subsequently enrolled in four-year colleges (35%), nearly twice the amount of those with an arrest record (16%).
  • “Arrested youth … tend to have less self-control and persistence, and they are more commonly sensation seeking. In terms of problem behavior, those arrested tend to be more aggressive [and] are significantly more likely to engage in violent offending, property crime, and drug distribution than those not arrested.”
  • A student with an arrest record is less likely to be female, Mexican or white and is more likely to have a mother with a substance abuse problem; he or she is also more likely to associate with “deviant peers” and have failed a grade in school. Further, “even prior to contact with the criminal justice system, eventual arrestees showed signs of educational difficulties.”

The researchers emphasize the significant role that institutional responses to a student with a criminal record play in facilitating the decision to drop out of school or not pursue higher educational opportunities: “Reactions to an arrest record may also work to narrow options available to college seeking students, making community college the only viable option for higher education.”

Tags: youth, municipal, crime, prisons

    Writer: | Last updated: June 11, 2012

    Citation: Kirk, David S.; Sampson, Robert J. “Juvenile Arrest and Collateral Educational Damage in the Transition to Adulthood,” Sociology of Education, May 2012. doi: 10.1177/0038040712448862.

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    Media analysis

    Read the issue-related ABC News article titled "Study: Significant Number of Young Americans Get Arrested."

    1. What key insights from the article and the report should reporters be aware of as they cover issues related to teen arrests?

    Study analysis

    Read the study titled Juvenile Arrest and Collateral Educational Damage in the Transition to Adulthood.”

    1. What are the study's key technical term(s)? Which ones need to be put into language a lay audience can understand?
    2. Do the study’s authors put the research into context and show how they are advancing the state of knowledge about the subject? If so, what did the previous research indicate?
    3. What is the study’s research method? If there are statistical results, how did the scholars arrive at them?
    4. Evaluate the study's limitations. (For example, are there weaknesses in the study's data or research design?)
    5. How could the findings be misreported or misinterpreted by a reporter? In other words, what are the difficulties in conveying the data accurately? Give an example of a faulty headline or story lead.

    Newswriting and digital reporting assignments

    1. Write a lead, headline or nut graph based on the study.
    2. Spend 60 minutes exploring the issue by accessing sources of information other than the study. Write a lead (or headline or nut graph) based on the study but informed by the new information. Does the new information significantly change what one would write based on the study alone?
    3. Compose two Twitter messages of 140 characters or fewer accurately conveying the study’s findings to a general audience. Make sure to use appropriate hashtags.
    4. Choose several key quotations from the study and show how they would be set up and used in a brief blog post.
    5. Map out the structure for a 60-second video segment about the study. What combination of study findings and visual aids could be used?
    6. Find pictures and graphics that might run with a story about the study. If appropriate, also find two related videos to embed in an online posting. Be sure to evaluate the credibility and appropriateness of any materials you would aggregate and repurpose.

    Class discussion questions

    1. What is the study’s most important finding?
    2. Would members of the public intuitively understand the study’s findings? If not, what would be the most effective way to relate them?
    3. What kinds of knowledgeable sources you would interview to report the study in context?
    4. How could the study be “localized” and shown to have community implications?
    5. How might the study be explained through the stories of representative individuals? What kinds of people might a reporter feature to make such a story about the study come alive?
    6. What sorts of stories might be generated out of secondary information or ideas discussed in the study?