Journal Issue: The Juvenile Court Volume 6 Number 3 Winter 1996
Although the dispositional options for delinquent youths have diversified over the past 20 years, the debate about the most effective treatment of young offenders continues. This article reviews the existing evaluations of various juvenile corrections alternatives. In contrast to the conclusions of scholars in the late 1970s that "nothing worked" in juvenile corrections, Mark Lipsey's 1992 meta-analysis of more than 400 evaluations of juvenile programs reported an average 10% improvement in recidivism rates for all the programs evaluated. Lipsey's meta-analysis found a significant advantage in community-based programs run by private providers compared with large custodial institutions, such as traditional state training schools. The most effective privately run community programs have high levels of intensity and duration, multiple modes of intervention, and a great deal of structure. Nonresidential, dawn-to-dusk educational programs that work with both juveniles and their families are good examples of this type of programming. Boot camps for juvenile offenders have proliferated because of their political popularity. A recent evaluation of eight of these programs showed that four had no effect on recidivism, one resulted in higher recidivism rates, and three showed improvements in some recidivism measures. Probation and diversion, the most common of all juvenile court dispositions, are not effective options for youths with multiple risk factors. Juvenile courts need an array of dispositional options, the ability to monitor program effectiveness, and the flexibility to find the appropriate placement for each juvenile offender.