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Multisystemic Therapy: Community-Based Treatment for High Risk Young Offenders: Rationale and Overview From the Randomized Clinical Trials in Canada (From UNAFEI Annual Report for 2000 and Resource Material Series No. 59, P 54-82, 2002, -- See NCJ-200221)

NCJ Number
Alan W. Leschied Ph.D.
Date Published
October 2002
29 pages
This document discusses community-based treatment for high-risk young offenders and an overview of clinical trials in Canada.
In the 1960's to the 1980's, three major influences fueled the debate that culminated in the 1984 proclamation of the Youth Offenders Act (YOA). These influences were the growing recognition that young people needed to be afforded protection under law; increasing skepticism about the effects of social re-engineering to reduce conditions thought to affect misbehavior among young people; and recognition that the offense of delinquency was too broad. Public attitudes were that the youth justice system was soft on crime and more emphasis was needed on making the punishment fit the crime. There was a lack of custody alternatives. The sentencing options were custody, community supervision, or measures with no correctional intervention. The rates of custody in 9 of 10 provinces approximate 34 percent of youth court dispositions. Seventy-five percent of Federal to provincial youth offender cost sharing funds custody facilities. Recent amendments to the YOA have focused on increasing severity of sanctions for youth with serious offenses while encouraging the use of community-based alternatives. The Multisystemic Therapy Approach (MST) adopts a social-ecological approach to understanding anti-social behavior. The underlying premise is that criminal conduct is multi-causal; therefore, effective interventions should address the multiple sources of criminogenic influence. The needs of youth are understood by assessing the “fit” between them and their immediate social context. MST has shown through randomized trials to be an effective means of delivering service to high-risk youth. Ontario’s randomized clinical trial included four geographic sites involving nine separate agencies. MST Inc. trained and licensed each of the four sites during the course of implementation. Evaluation included variables reflecting both process and outcome evaluation. Cost effectiveness and service utilization rates were factored separately to evaluate outcomes from intervention. The MST implementation project provided a revised look at the mission to provide effective services to youths at risk while stemming the trend toward continuing reliance on custody. Bibliography