Lane, J., Turner, S., Fain, T., & Sehgal, A. (2005). Evaluating an experimental intensive juvenile probation program: Supervision and official outcomes. Crime & Delinquency, 51(1), 26-52.
- The study’s objective was to examine the impact of the South Oxnard Challenge Project (SOCP), an alternative juvenile probation program, on recidivism outcomes.
- The study was a randomized controlled trial. The authors used administrative data from the program and probation records to compare the outcomes of youth randomly assigned to the SOCP with those of youth randomly assigned to a control group that received standard probation services.
- The study found no statistically significant effects of SOCP on arrests or referrals to probation, convictions, or incarceration.
- The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is high because it was based on a well-implemented randomized controlled trial. This means we would be confident that any estimated effects would be attributable to SOCP and not to other factors. However, the study did not find statistically significant effects.
South Oxnard Challenge Project (SOCP)
Features of the Intervention
The SOCP was an intensive, family-based juvenile probation program in Ventura County, California that provided a variety of social and community services, including alcohol and drug treatment, mental health treatment, community service, and recreation opportunities, providing a team-based approach with more frequent contacts than typical probation. The intervention period lasted seven to nine months. Youth were eligible to participate in the program if they were ages 12 to 18; lived in South Oxnard or Port Huneme, California; had a citation or violation of probation; and had a medium to high risk of reoffending according to a risk assessment. This program replaced routine juvenile probation.
Features of the Study
Authors randomly assigned 539 eligible youth to receive either the SOCP or routine juvenile probation services. The study examined recidivism outcomes such as arrests, convictions, and incarcerations. Data sources included juvenile and adult probation records at five data collection points: initial entry into the program, end of the program or probation period, and three six-month intervals after the end of the program or probation period. The researchers compared the means of the SOCP and control groups at the end of the intervention and 18 months after the intervention.
- The study found no statistically significant effect of SOCP participation on the criminal justice outcomes examined.
Considerations for Interpreting the Findings
The authors noted that differences in measurement and the relative low-risk of youth in the study might have contributed to the null finding. Although youth in SOCP received significantly more contacts with probation officers and spent more time receiving probation services than control group youth, the probation officers keeping records of service receipt for the comparison group were not compensated by the grant and might have had less incentive to record all probation contacts. Therefore, the comparison group level of contact could be understated in the recorded data. SOCP intended to target medium- to high-risk youth, but the sample comprised youth with low, medium, and high risk levels. The authors suggested another reason for the null impact was that SOCP provided similar numbers of contacts to youth of all risk levels, instead of targeting higher-risk youth with more intensive services relative to lower-risk youth.
Causal Evidence Rating
The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is high because it was based on a well-implemented randomized controlled trial. This means we are confident that any estimated effects would be attributable to SOCP and not to other factors. However, the study did not find statistically significant effects.