This article examines the effectiveness of experiential, community-based programs on recidivism of moderate risk juvenile offenders .
Research has documented negative effects of residential confinement in treating delinquent youth. Negative influences of anti-social peers, the institutional environment, as well as disproportion in the intensity of traditional juvenile incarceration relative to youths' underlying risk levels, may each contribute to these findings in the literature. These detrimental factors, as well as serious budget constraints including a 12 percent reduction in tax revenue and cuts in juvenile justice funding throughout the nation, have led many to question the viability and efficacy of institutional treatment for moderate risk juvenile offenders. The current assessment examines the recidivism and cost effectiveness of experiential, community-based programs. Using a quasi-experimental design, the evaluation compares similar risk youth served in day treatment and juvenile residential programs in Florida. Results reveal that the experiential community-based programs achieved statistically significantly lower rates of recidivism and subsequent placements compared to a matched sample of residential youth. Substantial differences were found for subsequent felony offending, with moderate to strong estimated mean effect sizes achieved by experiential non-committed programs in comparison to the residential matched group. With cost savings of $23,000 per youth, results suggest that community-based programming represents both a programmatic and cost effective alternative to residential incarceration for delinquent youth. (Published Abstract Provided)