Predictors of recidivism in a predominantly Hispanic sample of first-time juvenile offenders

Yvette Valenzuela, University of Texas at El Paso


Prior studies have identified risk factors that predict recidivism among serious and chronic juvenile offenders. The current study was conducted to identify risk factors in a related but much larger group—first time juvenile offenders. The aim was to develop a risk assessment tool that could identify (a) high-risk juveniles when they are first referred to the juvenile justice system, so that they can be targeted for intervention, and (b) low-risk juveniles who probably do not need intervention. Participants in the study were 321 first-time juvenile offenders at the El Paso Juvenile Probation Department (EPJPD). Eighty-nine percent of the juveniles were Hispanic. Data on potential risk factors and criminal recidivism were collected from juveniles' case files, a computer database maintained by EPJPD, Child Protective Services records, and data from the National Crime Information Center. Twenty-one predictors were identified that significantly correlated with recidivism in the entire sample of 321 juveniles or in a subsample. These predictors were used to create an experimental instrument, the El Paso Risk Assessment for Juveniles at Intake (El Paso RAJI). Juveniles' total scores on the RAJI correlated r = .410, p < .001, with any recidivism within one year following intake (Area Under the Curve = .793). Based on RAJI scores, the juveniles were assigned to six Risk Levels. Juveniles in the highest risk level had a recidivism rate of 37.9% whereas those in the lowest risk level had a recidivism rate of 0%. The El Paso RAJI is likely to prove useful for identifying juveniles at intake who have the highest and lowest risks of recidivism, although future research is necessary to cross-validate the present findings.

Subject Area

Behavioral psychology|Criminology|Hispanic American studies

Recommended Citation

Valenzuela, Yvette, "Predictors of recidivism in a predominantly Hispanic sample of first-time juvenile offenders" (2011). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI1494495.