This study uses propensity score matching to test the proposition that imprisonment deters future criminal activity among juvenile offenders. Using data from all court appearances of juveniles in the NSW Children's Court (Australia) between 2003 and 2004 (N'='6196), the reoffending of a group of young offenders sentenced to control (i.e. custodial) orders (N'='376) was compared to a matched group of offenders receiving community-based sanctions. No differences were observed between the two groups. The young offenders given detention orders had a slightly lower rate of reoffending, but this difference was not significant. The results of this study indicate that, over the time period examined in this study, the imposition of a custodial sentence had no effect on the risk of reoffending.