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Mission Accomplished? Assessing Whether "What Works" To Reduce Recidivism Is Actually Working

NCJ Number
Date Published
November 2015
2 pages
After reporting that many States have adopted programs and practices based in research that has shown their cost-effectiveness in reducing youth recidivism and improving other youth outcomes, this report identifies challenges that remain in this area and offers key recommendations for improving the use of evidence-based programs and practices for youth in the justice system.
States that have adopted research-based programs and practices for youth in their justice systems have achieved $11.00 in savings for every dollar spent and decreased youth recidivism by 40 percent. This compares with $200 lost for every dollar spent while experiencing an 8-percent increase in recidivism in States that continue to use discipline-based, punitive programs and practices in youth corrections; however, this progress is tempered by the fact that few States fully track recidivism or other youth outcomes to determine whether programs proven cost-effective in other States are achieving the same results when replicated in their own jurisdiction. In addressing this issue, the report recommends identifying key supervision, services, and youth outcome performance measures and requiring that an annual progress report on these measures be submitted to the legislature. It is also recommended that funding be provided for the creation of a centralized data system for tracking outcomes for youth in the justice system across State/local lines and branches of government. In addition, States should fund the comparison of juvenile and criminal justice data records so as to track youth involved in the juvenile corrections system for any later involvement in the adult corrections system. 2 figures