How Do Youth with Mental Disorders Fare in the Juvenile Justice System?

47 Pages Posted: 17 Aug 2006 Last revised: 27 Jun 2021

See all articles by Alison Cuellar

Alison Cuellar

Columbia University - Department of Health Policy and Management

Pinka Chatterji

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Date Written: August 2006

Abstract

The purpose of this paper is to examine the relationship between mental health problems and justice outcomes. Several studies have documented that individuals with a variety of mental disorders are overrepresented in the justice system. This pattern could result if persons with mental disorders are more likely to commit crimes, or more likely to commit serious crimes, than persons without disorders. In addition, individuals with mental disorders may be more likely than those without disorders to be sanctioned conditional on committing a particular crime. The major public policy concern is around the latter possibility, which has been interpreted as the justice system being biased against those with mental disorders. In this paper we explore several channels through which mental health problems, measured as ADHD and depression, may lead to over-representation in the criminal justice system. Using a large sample of adolescents, our findings show that youth with ADHD fare worse in the juvenile justice system in terms of the probability of being arrested and the probability of conviction once arrested. We find that elevated ADHD symptoms during adolescence are associated with statistically significant and meaningful increases in the probability of arrest and conviction after controlling for preexisting factors and mechanisms that may arise from the disorder itself.

Suggested Citation

Evans Cuellar, Alison and Chatterji, Pinka, How Do Youth with Mental Disorders Fare in the Juvenile Justice System? (August 2006). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=923795

Alison Evans Cuellar

Columbia University - Department of Health Policy and Management ( email )

600 West 168th Street, 6th Floor
New York, NY 10032
United States

Pinka Chatterji (Contact Author)

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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