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Proficiency in Basic Educational Skills as Related to Program Outcome and Escape Risk Among Juvenile Offenders in Residential Treatment

NCJ Number
Journal of Offender Rehabilitation Volume: 42 Issue: 3 Dated: 2005 Pages: 57-74
Robert A. McMackin; Robert Tansi; Stephanie Hartwell
Date Published
18 pages
This study examined the link between the basic educational skills in vocabulary, reading comprehension, and math among male juvenile offenders in residential care and their program completion, escape risk, and recidivism.
The study findings show that vocabulary skills were significantly related to program outcome, as measured by whether the 9-month residential program was completed or the youth escaped, as well as the recidivism rate for 1 to 20 years after release. Youth with vocabulary skills at or above a ninth-grade level were more likely to complete the residential program; whereas, youth with vocabulary skills below a sixth-grade level were at higher risk for escape. Youth with reading comprehension at or above a ninth-grade level were more likely to complete the program; and youth with reading comprehension skills below a sixth-grade level were more likely to escape. Math skills were not linked to completion of the program or escape; however, youth with math skills at or above the ninth-grade level had the lowest recidivism rate, but vocabulary and reading comprehension levels were not linked with recidivism. The authors suggest that treatment programs for youth with poor verbal skills should feature nonverbal interventions such as expressive arts and adventure-based therapy, as well as enhancements for client motivation. Sample selection was done by compiling a list of all youth who had been discharged from Massachusetts' Pilgrim Center (a 9-month, open-door, staff-secure residential treatment program) from January 1973 to July 1996. From this list, every fifth youth was selected for this study (n=223). Youth with incomplete records were eliminated to leave 144 youth in the final sample. Their records were reviewed for educational testing. Recidivism, defined as any postprogram juvenile or adult conviction, was examined for 1 to 20 years, depending on when the youth was released. 4 tables and 40 referencesThe study found that Latino girls experienced more indirect victimization (witnessing violence) and internal symptoms (anxiety and depression) compared to Latino boys, who were more likely to have experienced direct victimization (actual attacks) and external symptoms (delinquent behavior). Controlling for family structure and age, gender was the strongest predictor of peer victimization, indirect victimization, and direct victimization. Older youth were more likely to engage in delinquent behavior, including the use of crack, cocaine, heroin, and alcohol. The findings suggest that violent victimization and delinquency prevention and intervention measures for Latino youth should be tailored to gender and age. These findings are based on responses to self-administered questionnaires completed by 202 Latino youth between the ages of 12 and 18 who were living in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia. Fifty-five percent were boys. Parental income, educational, and occupational status were measures of the youths' socioeconomic background. The variables measured were peer victimization, direct victimization, indirect victimization, internal symptoms, and external symptoms. 6 tables and 23 references