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16 Years After Juvenile Detention, Shocking Rates of Firearm Mortality


Results published by the Northwestern Juvenile Project -- a 25-year prospective longitudinal cohort study of 1,829 youths after juvenile detention in Chicago, Illinois -- show that youths involved with the juvenile justice system had up to 23 times the rate of firearm mortality as the general population, though rates varied by sex, race and ethnicity, and age. More than one-quarter of Black and Hispanic males had been injured or killed by firearms 16 years after detention. Males had 13.6 times the rate of firearm injury or mortality than females. Twenty-five years after the study began, 88 participants (4.8%) had been killed by a firearm.


This is the first study to examine the incidence of nonfatal firearm injury and firearm mortality in youths who have been involved with the juvenile justice system. Why are rates of firearm injury and mortality so high in our juvenile justice sample? During adolescence, half of females and nearly three-quarters of males reported having easy access to firearms; one-quarter of males and 1 in 8 females were members of gangs that carried firearms. Access to firearms increases the risk for firearm homicide and suicide. Moreover, more than 70% of the sample had experienced violence in the past. These risk factors may also explain the disproportionately high rates of firearm injury and mortality in Black and Hispanic males, who were more likely to be involved with gangs and had access to firearms.

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