Helping Young Offenders Return to
Communities (Part 2)
In Upstate New York: Success
In Rochester, Huther-Doyle
Memorial Institute has seen recidivism
rates plummet. According to Ms.
Urban, the recidivism rate was
80 percent before the Young Offender
Reentry Program came along. Today,
the rate is just 14 percent for
the 18- to 24-year-olds the Rochester
Even better, Ms. Urban added, when
clients are arrested again, it’s
typically for less serious crimes than
whatever it was that got them incarcerated
in the first place.
“My glass is always half full,” said
Ms. Urban, noting that committing a
minor crime rather than a major one
is a step in the right direction even
if the client lands back in jail. “One
of the things this program has done
is to keep these young people from
graduating to the big leagues, where
they end up going to prison.”
The program’s case managers
begin working with youth 3 to 6 months
before their release. In addition to
conducting assessments, the case managers
analyze each client’s strengths,
weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.
Together the case manager and client
then develop a transition plan based
on that analysis. “The transition
plan is a roadmap for what they need
to do when they get out,” explained
Ms. Urban. “That way they know
what’s going to happen—even
where they’re going to get their
Building trusting relationships among
offenders and the five case managers
is another emphasis of pre-release
activities. There are basketball teams
and current event groups. The project
coordinator working onsite at the
jail has even created a newsletter
highlighting the young offenders’ progress,
poetry, and artwork. Noting that many
participants are gang members, Ms.
Urban explains that the goal is to
create an alternative family.
The moment the young people are released,
the case managers jump into action. “Case
managers pick them up on release day,
whether it’s 6 in the morning
or midnight,” explained Ms. Urban.
The client then spends up to a year
in the program, earning a GED, getting
substance abuse or mental health treatment,
learning how to interview for a job—whatever
will help them stay out of trouble.
“We want to show them that there’s
something other than selling drugs
and hanging out on the street corner,” said
In Florida: Recovery Begins Right
In Pinellas Park, FL, Operation PAR,
Inc., is having a big impact on the
14- to 18-year-old offenders it serves.
Working closely with the agency that
oversees young offenders’ probation
and aftercare requirements, Operation
PAR starts its Young Offender Reentry
Program as soon as teens are released.
The results are impressive, said Tommi
L. Leveille, Administrator of Research
and Evaluation at Operation PAR. For
youth who complete the full 8 to 12
weeks of treatment, more than 50 percent
were in recovery at the 6-month followup.
Of those who completed only part of
the treatment, the recovery rate was
only 20 percent.
Even more importantly, youth who completed
the program had much lower recidivism
rates, Ms. Leveille said. A total of
54 percent of those who completed the
program had managed to stay out of
trouble by the 6-month followup, compared
to just 30 percent of those who completed
only part of the treatment.
A continuous feedback loop helps.
At the beginning, for instance, the
program’s three counselors had
a hard time persuading families to
let them come to their homes for family
therapy and case management. The problem,
it turned out, was the use of the word “home
visits,” which is what the state’s
child welfare department calls its
investigations. Changing the terminology
to “touching base” or “dropping
by” was enough to improve engagement,
explained Ms. Leveille.
“These adolescents have spent
anywhere from 1 to 5 years in the juvenile
justice system and aren’t equipped
with the skills they need to live successful
lives,” Ms. Leveille said. “We
teach them the skills they need.”
For more information on criminal justice
programs at SAMHSA, visit www.samhsa.gov.
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