Program

Dec 13, 2016

OVERVIEW

Diversion programs, such as community service, allow juvenile offenders to avoid a criminal record once completed. Reading for Life (RFL) is a 10-week, randomized controlled trial diversion program that aims to reduce repeat offenses among nonviolent juvenile offenders. The intervention uses small-group mentoring and exposure to works of literature, to increase moral and character development among offenders ages 11 to 18. An evaluation of RFL determined that, compared with a control group of participants who did 25 hours of community service, participants assigned to RFL were significantly less likely to have repeat offenses in the follow-up period. In particular, RFL participants were less likely to have serious repeat offenses (felonies), compared to the control group.

DESCRIPTION OF PROGRAM

Target population: Nonviolent juvenile offenders

Reading for Life (RFL) is a 10-week, randomized controlled trial intervention for nonviolent juvenile offenders between the ages of 11 to 18. The program’s goal is to reduce participants’ likelihood of committing repeat offenses.  The program consists of two components: reading groups and mentorship. Participants are assigned to a group of no more than five youth, based on the outcome of a three-minute reading assessment, and each group is assigned two mentors. Each group meets for one hour, twice a week, for ten weeks. At the beginning of the sessions, the group chooses a novel from a list provided by the mentor. During each session, participants read aloud from the book, keep a journal, participate in facilitated discussion, and complete writing exercises. Throughout these exercises, participants learn about classic virtues of justice, prudence, temperance, fortitude, fidelity, hope, and charity. Additionally, RFL group members are able to apply lessons learned during these sessions to a one-day community service project that aligns with the readings and discussions. At the end of the program, participants give a formal presentation to parents or guardians, group mentors, and RFL administrative staff.

EVALUATION(S) OF PROGRAM

Seroczynski, A. D., Evans, W. N., Jobst, A. D., Horvath, L., Carozza, G. (2016). Reading for Life and adolescent re-arrest: Evaluating a unique juvenile diversion program. Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 3(35), 662-682.

Evaluated population: A total of 408 boys and girls were randomized into the intervention (n = 194) or control group (n = 214). The average age was 15.3 years, and the sample included 45 percent white, 31 percent black, 1.6 percent Asian, 12 percent Hispanic, and 9 percent multiracial participants.

Approach: Nonviolent offenders ages 11 to 18 in a mid-size Midwestern county who entered the justice system between June 2010 and December 31, 2013 were referred to the diversion program by their probation officers. Within the diversion program, participants were randomly assigned to RFL (the treatment group) or community service (the control group).

The treatment program is designed to last 16 weeks, approximately the same amount of time that it takes to complete 25 hours of community service. Of 9,368 cases that entered the justice system during the designated time, 672 of these cases were referred to the diversion program. From those referred to the program, 416 were assigned to the RFL treatment; however, eight participants refused consent and were therefore excluded. The primary outcome of interest for the evaluation of the program was whether or not participants reoffended, and whether the re-offense was a misdemeanor or a felony. To obtain this information, researchers used the Juvenile Justice Center for data on juvenile offenders. For participants who had aged out of the juvenile justice system during the three years of the study, researchers looked at public adult court records.

Results: Results from the RFL program looked at the likelihood of committing an offense at any time after assignment to the treatment, one year after treatment, and two years after the treatment. For all participants, the evaluation found that the RFL group was significantly less likely than the control group to reoffend, regardless of whether the offenses were prosecuted or non-prosecuted. The likelihood of committing any offenses one year and two years after the treatment was also reduced-by 10.2 and 13.2 percentage points, respectively. Both of these reductions were statistically significant. More specifically, the likelihood of committing a misdemeanor was reduced by 8.2 percentage points, which was also statically significant. The likelihood of committing a felony one year, and two years, after the treatment was reduced by 8.1 and 10.4 percentage points, respectively. Both of these reductions were statistically significant.

SOURCES FOR MORE INFORMATION

Reference

Seroczynski, A. D., Evans, W. N., Jobst, A. D., Horvath, L., Carozza, G. (2016). Reading for Life and adolescent re-arrest: Evaluating a unique juvenile diversion program. Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 3(35), 662-682.

KEYWORDS: Children (3-11), Adolescents (12-17), Youth (16+), Males and Females (Co-ed), Juvenile Offenders, High Risk, Mentoring, Delinquency (e.g., truancy, vandalism, theft, assault, etc.)

Program information last updated on 10/10/16