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Review: Juvenile Arrest and Collateral Educational Damage in the Transition to Adulthood

Reviewer: Sarah Krantz, Esq.

Article to be Reviewed: Kirk, David S.; Sampson, Robert J. “Juvenile Arrest and Collateral Educational Damage in the Transition to Adulthood,” Sociology of Education, May 2012. http://www.asanet.org/sites/default/files/savvy/journals/soe/Jan13SOEFeature.pdf.


Committing a crime while a juvenile brings about many unintended consequences that most did not consider. Having to deal with the trauma of arrest, the confusion of the legal process, and the punishment are only the least of it. The long-term effects of having a criminal record are with a child for the rest of their lives.

“Juvenile Arrest and Collateral Educational Damage in the Transition to Adulthood,” published in Sociology of Education in 2012, studies how juvenile arrests impact educational attainment rates, especially high school and postsecondary school attendance. The study was conducted using data from Chicago between the years of 1995 and 2002. 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,” the researchers focused on juvenile arrest rates rather than incarceration rates.

The researchers analyzed longitudinal data from multiple independent assessments to estimate the “direct effect of arrest on later high school dropout and college enrollment for adolescents with otherwise equivalent neighborhood, school, family, peer, and individual characteristics as well as similar frequency of criminal offending.” The study also presents evidence that arrest has a substantial impact on public school’s high school dropout rates. Furthermore, the researchers found a “significant gap in four-year college enrollment between arrested and otherwise similar youth without a criminal record.”

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%.”
  • Thirty-five percent of high school and GED graduates with no criminal record enrolled in four-year colleges, whereas only 16 percent of graduates with an arrest record enrolled.
  • 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.”
  • Students who are female, Mexican, or white are less likely to have an arrest record.
  • Students who have an arrest record are more likely to have a mother with substance abuse problems.
  • Students with arrest records are 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.”

Institutional responses to a student with an arrest record play a significant role in facilitating the student’s decision to drop out of school or to forgo pursuing a post-secondary education. “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.” This research clearly demonstrates the harms, beyond a criminal record, that arrest and punishment as a youth brings. The lack of education tends to bring about poverty, homelessness, and an increased rate of recidivism that cannot be ignored.