Bouffard, J., & Bergseth, K. (2008). The impact of reentry services on juvenile offenders’ recidivism. Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice, 6(3), 295-318.
- The study examined the impact of structured after-care and reentry services for justice-involved youth on their recidivism rates.
- The study used a nonexperimental design to compare youth who received reentry services to a comparison group of youth who received traditional services in a neighboring county. Data came from the local juvenile court databases, probation and transitional coordinator files, and electronic records used by case managers to track client contacts.
- The study found that there were no statistically significant differences between study groups in time to first reoffense or in number of criminal contacts with the justice system.
- The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is low because all treated youth were in one county and all comparison youth were in another. This means we are not confident that the estimated effects are attributable to the after-care and reentry program; other factors are likely to have contributed.
After-care and Reentry Services
Features of the Intervention
A developing body of literature demonstrates that orchestrated reentry services, tailored service provision, and mentoring relationships are effective program models in aiding justice-involved youth to successfully transition to the community and decreasing their rates of recidivism. The program under study included components of Juveniles Mentoring Program, Aftercare for Indiana through Mentoring, Intensive Aftercare Program and Serious and Violent Offender Reentry Initiative, all previously studied juvenile justice reentry program models.
The program under study was implemented in an unnamed, mostly rural Midwestern county. To be eligible to participate in the program, youth had to be in an out-of-home placement for at least three weeks; this placement could be in a detention center, foster care, residential treatment unit, chemical dependency treatment unit, or a mental health facility. Staff selected youth for the program based on factors that increased the risk of transition difficulties, such as offending history, family circumstances, and time spent in out-of-home placement. The program had a three-phase design of offender assessment (service delivery and reentry planning while youth were in a facility), case planning (efforts to facilitate transition to home and prepare reentry through home community investigation and community-based services determination), and case management that integrated treatment and supervision from transition coordinators through check-ins to ensure mentoring and community-based services receipt for up to six months after release.
Features of the Study
The study used a nonexperimental design to compare the recidivism outcomes of program participants in the county that implemented the program with the outcomes of a comparison group of youth who were returning from an at least three-week out-of-home placement to a neighboring county. Youth in the neighboring county were not offered the reentry services and participated in a standard supervised probation program. The authors estimated impacts through multivariate regression analyses with controls for demographic characteristics and offense history.
- Results from the multivariate regression analyses demonstrated no significant differences in time to first criminal reoffense or number of criminal contacts with the justice system for those in the treatment versus comparison group.
Considerations for Interpreting the Findings
The program participants and comparison youth came from different counties. It is possible that other policy changes at that county level occurred at the same time as the reentry program, or that policy changes occurred in response to an omitted third variable. For example, policing strategies might have been modified in the treatment county during this period, which would have affected the outcomes of interest irrespective of the reentry program. Therefore the study’s results cannot be attributed to the reentry program.
Causal Evidence Rating
The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is low because all treated youth were in one county and all comparison youth were in another. This means we are not confident that the estimated effects are attributable to the after-care and reentry program; other factors are likely to have contributed.