Wednesday, January 13, 2010

New Juvenile Justice Research, Could It Reshape Public Policy?

A new report from a seven year long study follows 1,354 youth starting at age 14-17 after committing serious offenses including murder, robbery, sex offenses and kidnapping. Pathways to Desistance, supported by the MacArthur Foundation's Models for Change Initiative, is a multi-site project tracking the outcomes of these young people through records and thousands of interviews.

The experiences documented provide greater insights into trajectory of delinquent youth and the effectiveness of the services they received. Among the interesting observations are that only one-fifth became involved with in the adult system and among the low level offenders placement in institutions statistically increased later offending. The researchers also documented high levels of substance abuse, 30% of the youth were diagnosed with a substance use disorder and over 80% used drugs or alcohol in the six months prior to their first interview. As a result, the report presents the following key findings:
  • It may be that expensive institutional placements are often being used in cases where there is little need for such an investment – and where it may in fact be counterproductive.
  • Ongoing substance use treatment for serious juvenile offenders appears to pay off. The key is including family in the intervention.

The implications for policymakers may be significant, from rethinking the incarceration of youth to requiring family-based treatments and interventions. Taken together, this could both reframe the dialogue and change funding decisions. For policies to reduce juvenile detention. (Hat tip to Reclaiming Futures blog)

No comments:

Post a Comment