University of Rochester


The Legacy of Accountability: Influences of Adolescent Incarceration on Adulthood

It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men. Frederick Douglass

In a country concerned about how corporal punishment during childhood impacts aggression in adulthood, there is little attention given to the long term impact of incarcerating youth.  Similarly, a focus on punishing behavior overshadows opportunities for restoring people.

There is wide acceptance of holding individuals’ accountable for their behaviors captured in the saying “don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time.”  There is however much less awareness of the variability in sentencing and the impact of “doing the time” for youth who are still largely unaware of how their actions and behaviors impact others.  

Dena Phillips Swanson’s project explores the long term implications of juvenile incarceration on youth into their adult years.  Different forms and lengths of time spent incarcerated are considered.

The purpose is to determine whether knowledge of the long term impact influences community members’ attitudes toward restorative practices as an alternative to incarceration in addressing accountability and harms.