Worth treating serious juvenile offenders

Treating serious juvenile offenders in secure corrections pays off. A new Campbell systematic review shows that treatment programs with cognitive elements in particular reduce relapse into crime, and especially relapse into serious crime.

There are only a small number of serious juvenile offenders, but these people commit a disproportionately large percentage of juvenile crime. The frequency and seriousness of their offending makes these juveniles a significant challenge for criminal justice agencies.

A new Campbell systematic review has studied the effect of a number of treatment programs, all of which aim at reducing recidivism (relapse into crime) after incarceration. The treatment programs aim at serious juvenile offenders between 12 and 21 years old in various forms of secure correction. The systematic review includes a total of 30 studies with 6,658 juvenile offenders.

Treatment reduces relapse

The conclusion of the systematic review is that, overall, the programs studied work with regard to limiting relapses into crime. Looking at the effect of programs on all types of crime, there is a 6 per cent lower probability that juveniles who have taken part in a program relapse into crime, compared with those who have not taken part in the relevant treatment program. As an illustration, if 60 out of 100 of these juveniles would ordinarily relapse into crime after release from correction, treatment will reduce this to 56 out of 100.

Cognitive therapy works best

The positive effects are most apparent for cognitive or cognitive-behavioral programs. In cognitive treatments, participants must learn to recognize, control and "reframe" automatic and distorted thought patterns. Similarly cognitive-behavioral programs involve training in, for example, social skills, anger control, critical reasoning and creative thinking.

Garrido, V. and Morales, L.A.: Serious (violent and chronic) juvenile offenders: A systematic review of treatment effectiveness in secure corrections.

(This article is based on excerpts from the User Abstract by SFI Campbell)

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