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SAMHSA News - May/June 2008, Volume 16, Number 3

What Works?

By Rebecca A. Clay

Every year an estimated 100,000 adolescents and young adults return to their homes following incarceration.

What’s the best way to help them stay out of trouble? SAMHSA’s Young Offender Reentry Program (YORP) has three basic principles:

  • Start early. Don’t wait until people are older or have served multiple or lengthy prison terms, recommends Ken Robertson, Team Leader of the Criminal Justice Grant Programs at SAMHSA’s Center for Substance Abuse Treatment.

    Intervening while clients are still young means a better chance of breaking the cycle of recidivism.

  • Create a seamless continuum of care. Treating substance abuse and other problems while young people are incarcerated isn't enough, said Mr. Robertson.

    And waiting until they're out doesn't work either. What's needed instead, he explained, are programs that “reach into the institution,” focus on transition planning, and continue on the outside until the young people are back on their feet again.

  • Use a holistic approach. Young Offender Reentry Program grantees (see Grantees List for all participating YORP programs) don’t just focus on substance abuse treatment.

    They also help young people find a place to live, learn basic skills like using a checkbook, get an education or a job, and anything else they need to succeed in daily life.

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