Reclaiming Futures in the Sea of Juvenile Justice Reform Initiatives

In the national scope of evidence-supported juvenile justice “reforms”, a question is often posed as to which approach or model makes the most sense to potential adopters. Or said another way, can we avoid “model fatigue” by adopting one reform methodology that gets us the best results with the most cost effective strategies?

Reclaiming Futures offers a theoretical approach to juvenile justice reform(s) that can complement most other models and/or evidence-informed approaches currently circulating throughout juvenile justice. Think about it: nearly all reform efforts require certain core “best practice” elements”:

  • Program (implementation) logic based on sound scientific and practice literatures
  • Empirically supported risk/need tools that help identify proper risk levels for incoming and participating youth
  • Comprehensive behavioral and clinical evaluations for in-depth analysis and case planning
  • Evidence-based/supported interventions (some clinical, some psychosocial, some behavioral, some inter-systemic) that balance skill building-treatment with public safety and accountability
  • Measurable benchmarks and a robust data system (e.g.., scorecards, reporting capabilities) to map system flow and accountability
  • Effective community engagement to link proper service levels and natural supports to risk conditions in the appropriate dosage
  • Intentional attention to transition (e.g., re-entry, aftercare)
  • Effective judicial leadership and partnerships with local comprehensive systems of care that make all of the above possible

Other models --- such as Casey’s Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative, the Council of State Governments’ Juvenile Justice Reinvestment Initiative, various aspects of Models for Change (MacArthur), disproportionate minority contact efforts (e.g., Burns Institute), school discipline alternative approaches ---rely on similar core strategies, albeit using differing implementation approaches and focal points.

Granted the goals are different and the methods employed various. Yet consider this - Reclaiming Futures requires a clear logic model championed by a change team of locally informed leaders and practitioners. When effectively implemented, Reclaiming Futures can leverage other approaches seamlessly. As with all models, it depends on high quality implementation with fidelity in order to succeed. Reclaiming Futures' methods, when employed properly, are structured in such a way as to rely on prevention and intervention science, while maximizing the strengths found in local juvenile justice practices (e.g., risk and protective factors, public and behavioral health prevention models and clinical best practices recovery interventions, etc.).

Reclaiming Futures’ change teams can be highly compatible with the technical teams required by justice reinvestment, detention alternatives, DMC reduction and school discipline alternatives efforts. They can provide the landing space, the oversight capabilities for planning and implementing various reforms within the six-step Reclaiming Futures model, while also attending to the required outcomes of other theoretical approaches. All models depend on the interconnected services provided by complementary agencies and subsystems (courts, schools, behavioral health, medical, community, etc.).

If staying true to the core elements (data driven, fidelity to implementation, evidence-based practices, local judicial and court leadership, strong accountability systems), Reclaiming Futures affords what can be a comprehensive approach to wrapping multiple reform strategies into a streamlined vehicle.

In social science there is never a “one size fits all” answer. But Reclaiming Futures can be a highly capable model for realigning and implementing evidence-supported practices in any juvenile justice jurisdiction. Like most things it boils down to political support for the model, financial resources to implement well and sustain the work, having proper expertise in the change teams supported by strong local “buy-in”, and high quality outcomes to prove its mettle.

Updated: February 08 2018