Community-based Programs vs. Incarceration

Over the past decade, numerous studies with sound scientific designs have shown that community-based treatment is more effective than institutional treatment for delinquent youth. Gagnon and Richards, for example, in a research report prepared for the U.S. Department of Labor, affirmed that community-based programs that address several key factors - treatment and therapy, education, family outreach and counseling, and interpersonal skills training - experience lower recidivism rates than institution-based programs (Gagnon and Richards, 2008, p. 29).

The University of Cincinnati Center for Criminal Justice Research (Latessa and colleagues) conducted an extensive evaluation of the RECLAIM Ohio initiative. In a recent evaluation report, they concluded that youth correctional treatment programs under RECLAIM Ohio exhibited inconsistent recidivism outcomes (some programs reported higher or similar recidivism rates compared to traditional corrections and probation programs, and some reported significantly lower recidivism rates). They concluded thatprograms like RECLAIM Ohio work best with high risk youth, and that the inconsistent recidivism outcomes were primarily linked to program implementation and program integrity, not to a flawed policy. Using the Correctional Program Assessment Inventory (CPAI), they found that youth programs with significantly lower recidivism rates scored higher on the CPAI, indicating that well managed and well structured programs typically have successful outcomes when compared with traditional corrections and probation programs (Lowenkamp, Latessa, and Lemke, 2006).

The Washington State Institute for Public Policy published a review of that state's research-based programs for juvenile offenders, funded under the Community Juvenile Accountability Act, and reported (similar to Latessa and colleagues), as an answer to the question about whether the programs 'work' in a real-world setting (e.g., in Washington communities), that "…the answer to this question is yes - when the programs are competently delivered" (WSIPP, 2004, p. 1). WSIPP stressed in their report that Functional Family Therapy (FFT), Aggression Management Training (ART), and coordination of services were all effective in reducing recidivism and costs (WSIPP, 2004).