Mackin, J., Lucas, L., Waller, M., Carey, S., & Finigan, M. (2010). Anne Arundel County juvenile treatment court outcome and cost evaluation. Portland OR: NPC Research.
- The study’s objective was to examine the impact of a juvenile treatment court in Anne Arundel County, Maryland, on recidivism.
- The authors used a nonexperimental design, matching youth who participated in the juvenile treatment court with similar court-involved youth who did not participate in the juvenile treatment court. The authors used administrative data to compare the mean number of juvenile rearrests for the study groups over a two-year follow-up period.
- The study found that 53 percent of the treatment court group, compared with 73 percent of the comparison group, had a juvenile rearrest within 24 months. The study also found differences of a similar magnitude at three intermediate follow-ups (6-, 12-, and 18-month follow-ups).
- The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is moderate because it was based on a well-implemented nonexperimental design. This means we are somewhat confident that the estimated effects are attributable to the juvenile treatment court, but other factors might also have contributed.
Anne Arundel Juvenile Treatment Court
Features of the Intervention
The Anne Arundel Juvenile Treatment Court was an approximately 10-month-long program for juvenile offenders with substance use issues. Anne Arundel County, located in Maryland, is a suburb of Baltimore, Maryland, and Washington, D.C. To be eligible for the program, the youth offender had to be charged with one of seven types of offenses and indicate that substance use contributed to the arrest. The offender also had to face significant family or school problems, and both the offender and his or her family had to be willing to participate in intensive treatment and related services as determined by the program.
A judge supervised treatment court participants. An interdisciplinary team of state and local agency representatives—including a treatment court coordinator, addiction treatment providers, prosecuting and defense attorneys, law enforcement officers, and parole and probation officers—supported the judge. The treatment court had three phases lasting a minimum of 5 months, with most participants remaining in the program for 10 months. In phase one, participants developed and began a treatment plan, attended treatment court reviews twice per month with a parent or guardian, attended school or General Educational Development (GED) classes, and attended group therapy. They faced a 5:00 p.m. curfew for the first two weeks of the program or until the first clean drug test and had to be substance–free for 30 days to move into phase two. In phase two, participants continued to attend school or GED classes, maintain employment (if not a full-time student), participate in individual and family counseling, and attend treatment court reviews twice per month, among other activities. In phase three, participants continued attending school or GED classes and/or maintained employment.
Participants received rewards or sanctions based on their performance and behavior throughout the program. Rewards included praise and encouragement from the treatment team, gift cards, less frequent court appearances, decreased drug testing, modified curfew, and release from probation (upon graduation). Sanctions included increased drug testing, essay-writing assignments, community service hours, book reports, curfew restrictions, and increased court appearances, among others.
Features of the Study
The authors matched 168 juvenile treatment court participants with a comparison group of 102 similar juvenile offenders who received traditional court processing. To be eligible for potential inclusion in the comparison group, youth had to be younger than 18; residents of Anne Arundel County; have no history of violent offenses or drug trafficking; be under a moderate, high or intensive level of juvenile supervision; and have been arrested on at least one of the charges that made youth eligible for the treatment court. Treatment court participants were matched with potential comparison group members on demographic characteristics, type of charge for the eligible arrest, and criminal history. Most members of the study sample were male, white, and had been charged with a drug-related crime. Their average age was 16. To estimate the impact of the treatment court, the authors compared the mean number of rearrests, as documented in juvenile administrative records, of the two groups.
- The study found that 53 percent of the treatment court group, compared with 73 percent of the comparison group, had a juvenile rearrest for any offense within 24 months. This difference was statistically significant. Differences of a similar magnitude were found at 6-, 12-, and 18-month follow-ups.
- The treatment court group had significantly fewer drug-related rearrests than the comparison group during the first 6 months after program entry, but differences were not statistically significant 12, 18, or 24 months after program entry.
Considerations for Interpreting the Findings
The Department of Juvenile Services did not release the names of comparison group youth, so the study could not obtain adult criminal justice data for them. Because more than 90 percent of the treatment group (and, presumably, a similar proportion of the comparison group) became adults at some point during the two-year follow-up period, looking only at juvenile arrest records might not capture the full impact of the program.
In addition, youth and their families had to be willing to participate in the treatment court; therefore, treatment court participants might have been more motivated in general than control group youth. It is not clear how many control group youth decided not to participate in the program or were not offered the program.
Causal Evidence Rating
The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is moderate because it was based on a well-implemented nonexperimental design. This means we are somewhat confident that the estimated effects are attributable to the juvenile treatment court, but other factors might also have contributed.