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Purpose of the Study
The incarceration of juveniles is a temporal measure. After a certain period of time, juveniles return back to the community. At least some of them are released with important issues unaddressed, making the process of reentry more difficult for them and the community. If no specific measures are taken, juveniles may pose a threat to the security of the community. Without supervision and assistance, chances of recidivism are high, and reoffending may occur.
Juvenile aftercare or reentry programs were created to address the specific needs of juveniles and assist them during the reintegration process. Such programs are measures of community restraint which provide an opportunity to change juveniles’ behavior and reduce prison populations. It is important to assess the effectiveness of aftercare programs to understand which programs are the most effective and use the same strategies when assisting other juveniles. This paper seeks to address the issue of juvenile reintegration and the effectiveness of various reentry programs on changing juveniles’ behavior.
The issue of juvenile reentry is an acute one due to the fact that in spite of the decline in juvenile crimes, the number of juveniles incarcerated is on the rise (Bouffard & Bergseth, 2008, p. 295). The research in the field of programs for juvenile reintegration has also been limited, especially the studies of the programs’ outcomes. The researcher conducts a comprehensive literature review to examine the impact of aftercare programs.
Correctional facilities, supervision agencies and service providers can benefit from using and applying scientific evidence on best practices in the field of juvenile aftercare programs for the purpose of improving reentry outcomes. As such, for this qualitative study the researcher gathers and evaluates the evidence on the impact of various juvenile aftercare programs to answer the following questions:
- What impact do aftercare programs have?
- What elements of aftercare programs provide the strongest evidence for their implementation?
- What information does the evidence provide on issues and barriers to the successful implementation of juvenile aftercare programs?
Definition of Terms
The research is conducted on the subject of juvenile justice system. There are various definitions of “juvenile” under state laws, however, for the purposes of this paper, “juvenile” is defined as an offender under the age of 18. Juvenile justice system is a system of justice which deals with the processing of youth offenders (Bazemore & Umbreit, 1995). Juvenile justice system can enforce justice through police, court, and correctional facilities, and is both punitive and rehabilitative (Sheffer, 1995, p. 481).
The rehabilitative aspect of the juvenile justice system is called restorative justice and deals with correctional policies such as providing supervision and care to juvenile offenders (Bazemore & Umbreit, 2001, p. 1; Moon, Sundt, Cullen, & Wright, 2000, p. 38). Rehabilitation may be used instead of imprisonment and involve a number of community-based treatment interventions (Moon et al., 2000, p. 38). In addition, rehabilitation includes reentry services or assisting juvenile offenders in the reintegration process in order to prevent criminal behavior from occurring in adult life.
In the context of this research, juvenile reintegration can be defined as the return of juvenile offenders to the community (Young, 2004, p. 70). While juvenile reintegration programs have been the focus of juvenile justice system since the 1990s, it is the renewed interest in the last two decades combined with federal support which contributed to the development of reentry programs models. The last decade saw the application of these models in practice with the aim of evaluating which practices are the most effective in juvenile offender reintegration.
Two main types of juvenile reintegration programs have been used in the United States. The first type is the Intensive Aftercare Program (IAP), which is focused on providing intensive supervision to serious juvenile offenders (Bouffard & Bergseth, 2008, p. 295). The second one is the Serious and Violent Offender Reentry Initiative (SVORI) (Bouffard & Bergseth, 2008, p. 296). Both types of programs included such components, as “a three-phase program design, needs assessment, and coordinated case management” (Bouffard & Bergseth, 2008, p. 296).
The implementation of these two types of programs, in particular, the IAP, highlighted the need to consider process evaluation when measuring a program’s effectiveness. Such evaluation highlights “the organizational structures and mechanisms that ultimately determine program success or failure” (Young, 2004, p. 70). In addition to process evaluation, the impact of a particular juvenile reentry program can be measured through intakes, juvenile retention and completion rate, caseload values, etc. (Young, 2004, p. 70).
Current research suggests that when properly implemented, juvenile aftercare programs show positive effect on reducing the likelihood of recidivism. In particular, programs which provide community-based mentoring services show noticeable drops in several risk domains, such as aggressive behavior (Bouffard & Bergseth, 2008, p. 298). While evidence is limited and the results of some studies are mixed, all of the studies highlight proper implementation and multi-faceted approach to program development as the foundations of a program’s success.
Bazemore, G., & Umbreit, M. (2001). A Comparison of Four Restorative Conferencing Models. Web.
Bazemore, G., & Umbreit, M. (1995). Rethinking the Sanctioning Function in Juvenile Court: Retributive or Restorative Responses to Youth Crime. Crime & Delinquency, 41(3), 296-316. Web.
Bouffard, J., & Bergseth, K. (2008). The Impact of Reentry Services on Juvenile Offenders’ Recidivism. Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice, 6(3), 295-318. Web.
Moon, M., Sundt, J., Cullen, F., & Wright, P. (2000). Is Child Saving Dead? Public Support for Juvenile Rehabilitation. Crime & Delinquency, 49(1), 38-60. Web.
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Sheffer, J. (1995). Serious and Habitual Juvenile Offender Statutes: Reconciling Punishment and Rehabilitation within the Juvenile Justice System. Vanderbilt Law Review, 48, pp. 481-482.
Young, D. (2004). First Count to Ten: Innovation and Implementation in Juvenile Reintegration Programs. Federal Probation, 68(2), 70. Web.