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Improving the Effectiveness of Juvenile Justice Programs: A New Perspective on Evidence-Based Practice

NCJ Number
Mark W. Lipsey; James C. Howell; Marion R. Kelly; Gabrielle Chapman; Darin Carver
Date Published
December 2010
68 pages
This paper introduces a framework for major juvenile justice system reform that involves the integration of a forward-looking administrative model with evidence-based programming.
The administrative model is organized around risk management and risk reduction aimed at protecting the public by minimizing recidivism. Evidence-based programming is organized around services that moderate criminogenic risk factors and enhance adaptive functioning for the treated offenders. Placements are guided by a disposition matrix that supports individualized disposition plans and is organized around the risk levels and treatment needs of offenders as assessed by empirically validated instruments. A variety of effective programs are supported, providing sufficient diversity to allow matching with offenders' needs. This repertoire of programs is integrated with a continuum of graduated levels of supervision and control, so that offenders can be placed in more highly structured program environments if behavior worsens and moved to less controlling environments when behavior improves. Program placements and supervision levels are based upon objective risk and needs assessments and in constructing case management plans focused on improving future behavior rather than punishing past behavior. Examples of a comprehensive continuum of prevention and graduated sanctions encompass the comprehensive strategies of San Diego, Orange County, and Missouri. A section on practical and policy considerations in implementing juvenile justice reform addresses needed improvements in juvenile justice systems, along with the challenges of change and sustainability. Recommendations focus on juvenile justice system administrators, legislators, juvenile justice State advisory groups, judges, and treatment providers. 9 figures and 96 references