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Public Policy and Administration


Karel Kurst-Swanger


Within the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice system, juvenile delinquency referrals have decreased, yet at the same time, juvenile recidivism rates continue to challenge policy makers. Using Hirschi's social learning theory as the foundation, the purpose of this descriptive phenomenological study was to examine the perceptions of juvenile justice professionals about their experiences with youthful offenders in order to determine the causes of juvenile recidivism. Data came from in-depth interviews with 9 participants including state attorneys, judges, and mental health counselors from within the central region of the state of Florida. Data were analyzed and coded using Colaizzi's method. Two primary themes emerged from the analysis of data: First, participants perceived that the influence of peers and factors such as environment, family criminal and mental health history, substance and abuse, truancy have a significant effect on juvenile recidivism. Second, participants perceived that parent bonding is the most important factor in reducing recidivism among juveniles aged 17 and 18 years old. The positive social change implications of this study include recommendations to the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice to implement, modify, and improve services and policy to reduce recidivism for juveniles aged 17 and 18 years old. This implementation, modification, and improvement may reduce recidivism among this subgroup of juvenile delinquents and may reduce the number of young adults entering the criminal justice system.