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Evidence-based Practices (EBP) - EBP & Juvenile Justice

"This article presents a practical approach that JJ [juvenile justice] systems can take in achieving evidence-based programming that reduces recidivism. Most JJ system programs produce relatively small reductions in recidivism, on average, thus there is much room for improvement. A research-based approach to making program improvements system-wide—and with that, increase the cost effectiveness of the system itself—is presented in this article. The success of this effort, however, depends on delivery of the right service to the right youth at the right time. The OJJDP Comprehensive Strategy for Serious, Violent, and Chronic Juvenile Offenders provides the scaffolding and structured decision-making tools that can be used across entire juvenile justice systems for promoting effective matches between evidence-based services and offender treatment needs on an ongoing basis" (p. 1). Sections of this document include: introduction—what an evidence-based program is, and taking a proactive approach to program improvements; a Comprehensive Strategy for Serious, Violent, and Chronic Juvenile Offenders—the OJJDP Comprehensive Strategy, the age-crime curve, a developmental pathways model, and risk and protective factors; key administrative tools for achieving evidence-based juvenile justice systems—the right service, to the right youth, at the right time, a system of graduated sanctions/responses, and state examples of Comprehensive Strategy benefits (North Carolina and Florida); and conclusion.

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Policy analysis of three different states, Washington, Louisiana and Pennsylvania, to illustrate the application of such diagnostic and evaluative capacity and its subsequent impact on improving outcomes in juvenile recidivism and delinquency prevention.


“A growing number of juvenile justice experts are suggesting a new, potentially more effective approach to reducing recidivism: first identify a youth’s risk of re-offending; then match services to his or her specific risk factors and responsiveness to specific types of interventions. This study examined the implementation of risk/needs assessment tools in six juvenile probation offices in two states, and what effects it had on the practices of the probation officers” (p. 1). Sections of this brief are: background; dynamic risk factors for delinquency; the implementation study; whether probation officers conduct risk/needs assessments reliably; whether the use of risk assessment changes juvenile probation officers’ practices and perceptions of risk; whether the use of risk assessment in juvenile probation lead to changes in the way youth are handled; use of assessments in decision-making by juvenile probation officers; change in post-adjudication, out-of-home placement rates; whether the use of risk assessment changes recidivism; why sound implementation of risk assessment is important; implications for policy and practice. The use of assessments results in suitable dispositions, often at lower levels of restriction. The result is better utilization of resources for high-risk youth with no increase in re-offending rates.

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“The objective of this review is to systematically review quasi-experimental and experimental (RCT) evaluations of the effectiveness of drug courts in reducing recidivism, including drug courts for juvenile and DWI offenders. This systematic review critically assesses drug courts’ effects on recidivism in the short- and long-term, the methodological soundness of the existing evidence, and the relationship between drug court features and effectiveness” (p. 6). Results are provided for: a description of eligible studies; overall mean effects by type of drug court; robustness of findings to methodological weaknesses; drug courts’ long-term effects; features of the drug court; and additional sensitivity analysis. Overall, research shows that adult drug courts are effective in reducing recidivism, DWI drug courts moderately successful, and juvenile drug courts having small impact.

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The purpose of this paper is to provide an overview for understanding, testing, and developing Evidence Based Practice (EBP) interventions that make rehabilitative services available to children in the juvenile justice system. 

Curriculum for the Juvenile Justice System Enhancement Strategy (JJSES).

In a context where more than 1,000,000 American adolescents are processed by juvenile courts annually and approximately 160,000 are sent to residential placements, this paper examines “what works” and “what doesn’t work” in reducing the criminal behavior of juvenile offenders and presents examples of government initiatives that have successfully promoted the adoption, implementation, and sustainability of evidence-based interventions for juvenile offenders. 

To gain a better understanding of how states support evidence-based programs and practices in juvenile justice, the National Center for Juvenile Justice (NCJJ) conducted state-by-state (including the District of Columbia) inquiries to identify legislation, policies, or positions on evidencebased programs and practices in juvenile justice.

At the end of 2012, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) launched the Juvenile Justice Reform and Reinvestment Initiative (JJRRI) in three demonstration sites in Delaware, Iowa, and Milwaukee County, Wisconsin. The goal of JJRRI was to bring evidence and best practices to bear on juvenile justice operations. This was done through the use of empirically based risk and needs assessment, the development of dispositional matrices that provide evidence-based recommendations concerning dispositional options, and the implementation of the Standardized Program Evaluation Protocol (SPEP™) rating system to assess and guide improvements in the programs delivered to juvenile justice youth. Together, these tools were intended to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of the use of juvenile justice resources.

Evidence-based practice involves the use of scientific principles to assess the available evidence on program effectiveness and develop principles for best practice in any particular field. In delinquency prevention or intervention this includes: assessment of community and individual client needs; review and assessment of programs that could meet those needs; development and/or implementation of new programs; assignment of youth to particular programs; and monitoring of program fidelity and outcomes. 


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