The authors of this document present results of an evaluation of the Reading for Life diversion program; they outline the program, study protocols, and research data collection; discuss related literature on juvenile diversion programs; and present basic results, cost effectiveness calculations, and suggestions for future research.
This evaluation report describes the Reading for Life (RFL) program, which is designed for non-violent, first-time juvenile offenders, and uses virtue theory, works of literature, and small mentoring groups in an effort to foster moral development in juvenile offenders. Participants were randomly assigned to RFL treatment or a comparison program of community service. Research study results indicated that the RFL program led to large drops in future arrests, and it was especially successful at reducing the chance of future serious offenses and reducing recidivism for those groups with the highest likelihood for committing future offenses. The authors also report dramatically smaller counts of one, two, and three arrests in the RFL group compared to the control sample; and while there is suggestive evidence that the program works for females, the results are more precise for males. The authors finally discuss the cost-benefit analysis, and note that in their extrapolations based on research data, the program would result in a reduction of total societal costs by 65 percent. They also suggest that since the program was run in a medium-sized Midwestern town, similar research should be conducted in other environments to see if these results can be replicated.