Bergseth, K., & McDonald, T. (2007). Reentry services: An evaluation of a pilot project in Clay County, MN. Fargo, ND: North Dakota State University, Department of Criminal Justice and Political Science.
- The study’s objective was to examine the impact of the Reentry Services Project (RSP) on juvenile recidivism.
- The authors estimated regression models comparing the number of criminal and official contacts with police or the courts, pulled from an electronic Court Services Tracking System, between RSP and comparison group members, controlling for differences in demographics and number of prior charges.
- The study found that RSP group members had significantly fewer official and criminal contacts than the comparison group one year after release from out-of-home placement.
- The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is low because the program was implemented in only one county and there was no variation in the implementation of the program over time. This means we are not confident that the estimated effects are attributable to the RSP; other factors are likely to have contributed.
The Reentry Services Project (RSP)
Features of the Intervention
The RSP served youthful offenders in their reentry into the community from out-of-home placement in Clay County, Minnesota. The program was designed to begin 30 days before release from out-of-home placement and continue for six months following release to the community. Through two transitional coordinators working with probation officers, the RSP sought to reduce the likelihood of further crime and delinquency by providing comprehensive reentry case management and connecting youth to employment, stable housing, substance abuse treatment, physical and mental health care, and community-based services and supports.
Features of the Study
The analysis included 92 RSP youth whose files were closed as of April 2007, and 92 youth in a comparison group from a nearby county (Becker County, Minnesota) that offered standard probation services to youth exiting out-of-home placement, but no additional reentry services. The target population was youth ages 11 to 19 returning from out-of-home placement of three or more weeks. The authors estimated regression models comparing the number of criminal and official contacts with police or the courts at 6, 12, and 24 months after reentry, pulled from an electronic Court Services Tracking System, between RSP and comparison group members. The authors controlled for differences in demographics and number of prior charges.
- The study found statistically significant reductions in the number of official contacts and the number of criminal contacts for the RSP group one year after release from out-of-home placement.
Considerations for Interpreting the Findings
Because the analysis considered a program operating in only one county, it is impossible to disentangle the effect of the RSP from the effect of the county itself; this is known as a confounding factor. For instance, there could have been other changes to the criminal justice system occurring at the county level at the same time that could also have affected the outcomes of interest. Therefore, we cannot attribute the estimated effects with confidence to the RSP, and not other factors, and the study is not eligible for a moderate causal evidence rating. If the study had included more than one county and/or the authors had compared the changes in the outcomes over time across the treatment and comparison counties, it could be eligible for a moderate evidence rating.
In addition, there were large differences between the RSP and comparison groups in prior criminal justice activity. The comparison group had more prior contacts, prior charges, felony charges, number of days in placement, and total days in placement relative to the RSP group. Even though the analysis included statistical controls for these measures, these controls might not be able to fully account for existing differences of this magnitude. Varying levels of prior criminal justice activity, rather than the intervention, could explain any observed differences in outcomes between the groups.
Causal Evidence Rating
The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is low because the analysis had a confounding factor. This means we are not confident that the estimated effects are attributable to the RSP; other factors are likely to have contributed.
Bouffard, J., Bergseth, K., & Ford, S. (2009). A Minnesota county mentors juveniles and provides reentry services. Corrections Today, December 2009, 54-57.