An Experimental Design Study of Judicial Decision-Making Regarding Compulsory Vaccination Policies in Juvenile Detention Facilities

Anne S. Douds

Advisor: David B Wilson, PhD, Department of Criminology, Law and Society

Committee Members: Devon Johnson, Stephen Mastrofski, June Tangney

Aquia Building, #235
June 27, 2012, 10:00 AM to 07:00 AM


Children arrive in the juvenile justice system suffering from a constellation of social and health care issues that predispose them to medical risk. They are far more likely than their peers in the general population to lack their state-mandated vaccines. Policy makers have suggested that juvenile court judges intervene at detention hearings on behalf of juveniles and compel juvenile facilities to obtain vaccines for the children they house. However, prior research suggests that concerns about legal custody and medical authority would impede judicial intervention in vaccine delivery to these children even after they are taken into state custody. This experimental design study tests the significance of legal consent and the availability of medical records to analyze whether those concerns are meaningful hindrances to judicial involvement in vaccine policies. The study further examines judicial respondents’ socio-ideological qualities to identify correlations among social and philosophical characteristics with decisions on vaccine policies. The results indicate that legal consent and judicial ideology exert a statistically significant influence on judicial respondents' decisions on whether to mandate compliance with state vaccines through the powers of the court.