The Crossroads study is a multi-site, longitudinal study of first-time adolescent offenders investigating the long-term impacts of formal versus informal processing. Between July, 2011 and May, 2013, 1,216 youths arrested for the first time in Orange County, California  (N = 532), Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania (N = 533), and Jefferson Parish (New Orleans), Louisiana (N=151) were enrolled into the study.

The enrolled youth were at least 13 years old and under 17 years old at the time of their committing offense, and were charged with a low-level offense (e.g., assault, petty theft, vandalism). Each study participant is being followed for a period of three years past enrollment with the end result a comprehensive picture of life changes in a wide array of areas over the course of this time, as a result of varying degrees of justice system penetration at processing.

The study was designed to:

  1. Examine the developmental consequences of adolescents’ involvement in the justice system and the costs and/or benefits of these outcomes. Areas of development will include academic achievement, employment, psychosocial maturity, antisocial attitudes, mental health, social relationships, and (antisocial) behavior
  2. Identify the characteristics of a youth and/or his offense that render him more or less prone to benefit from justice system involvement. Factors to be considered will include neighborhood characteristics; family, peer, and romantic relationships; relationships with non-kin adults; psychosocial maturity; mental health; emotional and neurological functioning; and past behavior.