Implementing Evidence-Based Programs for Justice-Involved Teens

A recent report from the Association for the Advancement of Evidence-Based Practice demonstrates strong evidence to support shifting resources to evidence-based programs (EBPs) in delinquency prevention or intervention, or those proven to produce substantial reductions in recidivism and crime. Despite this, according to the report,

Although there are sufficient resources currently invested in juvenile justice programs to provide a program that has been proven effective for every youth who could use one, less than 10 percent of youths in need actually receive these programs.

To address this and improve the availability and quality of EBPs, the report, Implementing Proven Programs For Juvenile Offenders: Assessing State Progress, examined the top five states in terms of proven programs (Connecticut, Hawaii, Louisiana, Maine and New Mexico) for commonalities that could guide other states.
Key similarities found in the study included:

  • Structured involvement of all key stakeholders: requiring the cooperation of many state and local agencies, including state departments, law enforcement, and school systems, in programs
  • Development of local expertise: identifying at least one person to become fully informed about the available EBP options and allotting time for them to do this
  • Pilot testing of new EBPs: picking one or two sites in which to test the program models selected as the best to suit their needs
  • Creation of information resource centers: establishing sites with staff acting to bridge the science of EBPs (assessment instruments, training consultant etc.) and the practitioners
  • Designation of small number of EBPs to be supported by state: starting out supporting just one EBP and slowly adding additional programs
  • Special funding for designated EBPs: enlisting state support for important but non-revenue producing pre-implementation aspects of a new EBP
  • Technical assistance to counties for needs assessment, program selection and implementation

While warning that evidence-based practice in delinquency prevention still faces various obstacles, including solidifying the definition of “evidence-based” amongst decision-makers, the report demonstrates the efficacy seen in EBPs and key lessons for their advancement. Among these takeaways the study highlights is that “the expansion of EBPs throughout a state does not happen by accident”—all five leading states’ outcomes were the result of focused efforts.

Although program implementation can be a complex, challenging process, with these lessons and the success stories of the top states in mind, further exploration of best practice and EBPs to establish greater effectiveness, accountability and sustainability in juvenile justice programs looks promising.

Gabrielle Nygaard is a Digital and Social Media Intern at Prichard Communications, where she assists on several accounts, including Reclaiming Futures. She is a student at Linfield College studying Mass Communication and Japanese. She is an Oregon native and health enthusiast.

Updated: January 14 2013