This report looks at the results and recommendations of a project exploring youth recidivism—in particular, whether it would be possible to analyse youth recidivism using data from the Juvenile Justice National Minimum Data Set (JJ NMDS). The JJ NMDS is a longitudinal person-based data collection, containing information on all children and young people in Australia supervised by youth justice agencies, both in the community and in detention. This report uses the 12 principles developed by Richards (2011) to analyse recidivism. It is important to note that as the JJ NMDS only contains data on supervised orders, any results derived from the JJ NDMS relate to 'returns to sentenced supervision' rather than a broader measure of recidivism relating to any reversion to criminal behaviour.

Benefits to using the JJ NMDS

There are a number of benefits to using a longitudinal data collection such as the JJ NMDS to analyse 'returns to supervision' rather than creating a separate collection containing aggregate data supplied by individual states and territories. These benefits include:

  • enabling a young person's recidivism across state and territory boundaries to be traced
  • allowing flexibility in reporting recidivism over a number of different timeframes (including over the young person's youth justice career)
  • making it possible to explore the impact of a range of variables on the levels of recidivism (e.g. demographics, age at first supervision, previous supervised orders)
  • longer-term benefits such as potential linkage with other relevant data collections.

Possible future development

In its current form, the JJ NMDS can be used to fulfil a number of the 12 principles to measure recidivism, although there are some limitations. Many of these limitations would be resolved if offence data were included in the JJ NMDS, as this information would allow for:

  • using offence dates rather than supervision dates
  • measuring frequency and severity of reoffending
  • excluding pseudo-recidivism, minor offences, technical breaches and restorations of suspended sentences.

Integrating data on other aspects of the youth justice system (e.g. arrests and unsupervised court orders) and adult system data would allow for a more informed analysis of recidivism.

Findings from the analysis of the JJ NMDS

Nationally, over two-fifths (43%) of young people with sentenced supervision in 2010-11 had returned to sentenced supervision within 1 year, while over three-fifths (63%) of those in sentenced supervision during 2009-10 had returned to sentenced supervision within 2 years.

In addition, almost half (48%) of those born in 1990-91 to 1994-95 with 1 or more sentenced supervision orders in the JJ NMDS returned to youth justice supervision at some point before they 'aged out' of the system at the age of 18. A sizeable proportion of each of these 3 groups had returned to supervision within 6 months, indicating that shorter timeframes could also provide valuable information on returns to supervision. In addition, the proportion who returned differed by type of order (detention or community-based supervision), sex, Indigenous status and age at first supervision. This indicates that these and possibly other associated variables would provide valuable information and should be included in any analysis of 'returns to supervision' or recidivism.