Measuring recidivism rates can help lawmakers and experts better reduce the number of repeat offenders. However, past systems for tracking juvenile recidivism have not always given an accurate picture of what is going on. A more recent multi-organization project helped Washington improve recidivism reporting, which may benefit youthful offenders.

The project was led by the National Center for Juvenile Justice and the Pew Charitable Trust Foundation. The project aimed to make at least three main improvements. These were to create benchmarks for accurately measuring system performance, provide baseline state-to-state assessments and ensure that Washington uses measures for showing the whole picture of repeat offenders, allowing for accurate comparisons of different age groups.

The project also established a uniform definition of recidivism in Washington and other states participating in the same project. Recidivism is defined as a felony or misdemeanor that is committed within 24 months of being released from a juvenile correction facility, and which involves either adjudication at juvenile court or a conviction as an adult.

Tracking juvenile recidivism is important because it not only shows a given person’s behavior, but also the impact of decisions made within the juvenile justice system. It is important to understand how both of these pieces of information factor into recidivism rates; otherwise policymakers cannot make accurate or effective changes. A minor who is accused of committing a delinquent act might also want to consider how accurately surveying his or her unique situation can help when it comes to creating a strong criminal defense.